The Avatar of the Tree

During the Titan Wars there was a Titan so evil and corrupt that both sides join forces against him.  What his name was, that is lost to history, but his deeds live on.

He destroyed whole races, killed his fellow Titans, spawn monsters such as Aboleths and set himself up to be a god.  If he succeeded all of creation would have became his, for Gord was asleep.

Collecting his minions, the vile legions, he setup to conquered the world.  His rage ravaged the world, destroying all in his path.

Close did he come to success, if not for other Titans and gods joining forces, setting aside their hate to resist, all would have been lost.

Many perished in the struggled, but then one day a battle rage into the skies.  The clouds lid up with the fury of the battle, the Earth shook , and mountains trembled.  Finally the evil one fell from the sky, not even he being able to fight the combined might of Titans and gods.  He feel to the ground, and became impaled on a large Oak tree.  His blood flowing down the tree, seeping into the roots.

His body was left to rot, Millenia passed, the war forgotten.

Yet the spirit of the Titan never died, it imbed itself inside the tree, twisting it making it aware and evil.  The roots of the tree spread for miles around it, while it grew high and mighty.  The twisted branches enveloped the area for almost a mile from its trunk.  From these branches vines grew, vines that would lash around throat of anything living, hanging it.  Hence why the Tree is also named “The Hangman tree”.

Worst of all, it could control an intelligent being that wondered too closely, making it come close to the trunk.  Once there roots shoot out, enveloping their victim within.
For 1000 days the victim is tortured, its body and mind twisted, until on the 1001 day it emerges, corrupted and evil.
Most of the time this Avatar is devoid of reason, the torture destroying its mind.  It wonders away from the Tree, killing anything in its path.

Its white, almost marble skin, its sealed lips, iris-less eyes, the vines that twist beneath its skin fills any sane creature with terror.  It doesn’t stop until it is killed, but it is neigh impervious to any attack, be it physical or magical.  Its strength far stronger then all but the biggest of Dragons.

It ravages the country, but since it is mindless, eventually it succumbs to well coordinated attacks.  It is a deadly threat, but one that tends to be contained quickly.

Once every few centuries, sometimes not for Millenia or two, the victim managed to retain its mind.  Twisted, corrupted, but intelligent.  This is a deadly opponent, one who can use magic, and not only brawn, can control evil creatures, and can use tactics.  When such Avatar rises, nations tremble.

There once was an Avatar so powerful that almost all the nations joined forces to fight it.  The Council of mages, the Griffon riders, the Great Kingdom, and many others all fought to kill it.  This Avatar joined the tree out of his own desire, and resisted the onslaught for over 1000 days, until it emerged with full powers that tree could provide.
This brought about the end of the 2nd golden age, and almost resulted in the end of the world itself.

During a war of the 7 artifacts, a cult arose which worship the Tree as a god.  It would offer sacrifices every 5 years to their god, which would spawn the Avatar and ravage the area, over and over again.  The cult was secretive and well organized, avoiding detection for almost a century.  It was during this time that the Kingdom of Numa arose, partially as a response to this thread.  Many a war was fought against the Avatar, and many people died.  Until finally the first king of Numa: Numa I The Great, lead the charge of Paladins  against the cult, and fought the Avatar in a single combat beating it.  After which he destroyed the cult, to the last man.
To this day all the nations have an instant death penalty for anybody who is proven guilty of worshiping the Tree; they are hanged on a tree until the rot never being cut down, for all to know their crime.

The Avatars still plague Numa, and surrounding lands, but rarely now.  Yet always when an Avatar appears, even the mindless one, it is the King, to pay homage to Numa, that takes the field personally.

The Invasion

Wizard awoke from his injuries with the help of Paladin’s faith. The first thing he heard were sounds of war drums, and an army marching off into a distance.  He send his familiar up to see though its eyes, and seen an army of Orcs marching but few miles off into a distance.

Quickly he got up and told his companions of what he had seen, and after a very quick discussion the party run towards Hisred to warn the captain.

Day and a half later, as night fell, the exhausted heroes reached the stronghold.  They ignored the protestations of guards that the Captain is sleeping, barging into his bed chamber.

“There are 10 thousand orcs coming!”, the Halfling exclaimed.

“10 thousand, you say? Well that is a bit unusual, we usually don’t get Orcs this far West, but no matter we can hold against 10 thousand.”, the Captain said.

“Well there might have been more then 10 thousand”, Halfling said.

“OK well tell me all that you’ve seen”, Captain responded gently.

“We run into patrol of Orcs, who killed the Lumberjacks, and fought them off, there was also this black clad Archery, and”

“Wait! What! Describe the Archer!”, the Captain interrupted.

“Ahm, well we didn’t seen him well, he was covered in black robes, and had this weird bow that looked as if it was grown and not made.  When we killed him he turn into a shadow and floated away”, The Hafling said.

The Captain run into his study and came back with a small painting of an archer that looked just like the one that Hafling described.
“Is this what it looked like?”

“Yeah, that’s it”

Captain swore.
“That was a shade of a tree! People think that The Tree only takes live creatures, turning them into the abominations that is an Avatar of the Tree.. but that is not so.  Whenever something intelligent, be it Human or whatever, dies within certain radius of the Tree, the Tree resurrects it.  The thing isn’t really dead, nor undead, it is more of a construct under full control of the Tree.

They are dangerous, but have no free will and they typically are only around when The Avatar is loose.  However occasionally, for whatever reason, they are seen by themselves.  We NEED to know what we are dealing with!”, Captain said.

He turned towards the Ranger.

“Are you a real, honest to goodness Ranger? Not one of those weekend warriors who occasionally go into a forest for a day or so, and calls himself a ranger?  A member of a real Ranger order?”

The Ranger somewhat surprised replied:
“Well I am of no order, but I am a real Ranger”

“Good! These woods are dense, and really only Rangers can reliably traverse them without getting lost.  I think I may know where the Orcs are, as there is really only one place large enough for them to gather.  As you well know, Orcs are incapable of order.  It will take few days for them to gather in any kind of force for an attack.  If Orcs are being Orcs, whomever commands them will be towards the middle of the horde, relatively easy to spot”

“Here I will give you some help.  Here are potions of healing, along with potions of invisibility.  I honestly do not know how long these will last… but you should have minutes without being spotted”, Captain said.

“So how long will they last?”, the Hafling asked

“I do not know, minutes, maybe longer”, Captain responded patiently.

With this the party gathered their tired selves and set out into danger.

For two days the party traveled through a dense, primeval forest with only Ranger being able to sense where they were going.  The rest of the party trusted his senses, but one tree looked pretty much same as another.  They moved cautiously trying to avoid any dangers.

Early on the their third day they luck run out as they stumbled onto an Orc war party.  10 of the evil creatures charged the party, expecting an easy win (and meal).

With a quick sleep spell, Paladin faith, Monks fist, and Ranger arrows, the Orcs fell without doing too much harm to the heroes.  Not even Hafling got hurt, somehow.

As the last Orc fell, the decision was made to quickly retreat deeper into the woods to avoid encounters.  Fortunately no further Orcs were discovered at this time.

Therefore Party send the Ranger to scout.  After following the trail of orcs for couples hours, he stumbled on a group of 3, and tried to hide.  Unfortunately the Orcs seen him, and charged.  Brief battle ensued which ended with some very dead Orcs.

Not wanting to take further chances, the Ranger came back to the group.

Meanwhile a female Dragonkin appeared right in the middle of the party.  The Paladin was instantly smitten, just about ready to confess his everlasting love.  He approached her and started to have a conversation, ready to move in with her.  After few words, he noticed something odd about the creature.  As the wind blew he could almost see through her, and she wasn’t making any noise.  Suspicious he touched her, only for his hand to pass through.  At this time the Wizard couldn’t contain himself anymore, and burst out laughing.  The rouse was over, and the Dragonkin knew that it was an Illusion cast by the Hafling that has smitten him.

Ready to attack the Dragonkin roared , but settled instead of just punching the Hafling and walking away to grumble in private.

Towards the evening party heard sounds of an Orc party approaching.   Knowing that the fight had to be over quickly they set a trap, in a form of a bear trap and some caltrops, and hid.  Ranger supervised to ensure that everybody is hidden well.  Dragonkin decided, for whatever reason, to simply stand in front of a tree motionless.  Given that the tree was light, and the Dragonkin black making him especially noticeable, it was surprising that the Ranger didn’t notice him.  Therefore as soon as the Orcs came close they notice the party and charged. One of the Orc managed to get stuck in the trap, but the rest attacked unimpaired.

Ranger cast a new spell, which entangled the Orc he hit in a thick and painful growth of vines.  The rest of the Orcs succumbed quickly to the onslaught.  Only the Orc stuck in the Bear trap and one which was slowly killed by vines were left.
Deciding to interrogate the creatures, Hafling talked (while Ranger interpreted) and Dragonkin looked menacing.  At first Orcs resisted, but after quick persuasion, which involved killing the Orc in a Bear tramp.  The party learned the location of the major Orc encampment.  The Orc expected to be set free, but instead the Ranger simply did not released him from the vines which quickly put the end to the evil beast screams.

The party went to sleep, well covered , with Paladin taking the first watch.   Unfortunately past few days of constant vigilance was too much for him, and he promptly fell asleep, only to be woken up by an Orcish axe coming straight towards him.  Embarrassed and hurt the Paladin roared waking up the rest of the party, and after a brief fight, the party prevailed.   During this fight, the Monk showed to the rest of the party how strong his martial arts is.  For within a spawn of few seconds, 3 Orcs laid at his feet dead.

It was too late to get a good sleep, and Wizard grumbled about missing his spells, but the rest of the party shrugged and continued on their journey.

Few hours, later party stumbled unto a small hill beneath of which an ancient road spread, right in the area that the Orc said it would be.  Everywhere there were Orcs, hordes of them.  While exact number was impossible to tell, it was certain that there many of many thousands.  They, being Orcs, were spread chaotically, without any thought or design.  However the Ranger, who understand and hates Orcs, could tell where the leaders were.  For Orcs were more alert, more vigilant and more packed where those they feared were.

After brief conversation it was decided that Ranger should sneak towards the main encampment, while the Wizard casts and maintains an invisibility spell.  The rest of the party hid, under the supervision of the Ranger, who ensured that everybody is as well hidden as possible (this time double checking on the Dragonkin)

Slowly the Ranger made his way through the throng of Orcs, towards little grove of trees where obviously the leaders were standing.  The Orcs stood in attention, and were vigilant, a sure sign that something powerful was close.  As the Ranger came closer he came upon a small camp where few Orcs were gathering listening to the ex-Mayor the Saekell himself.  This time he wasn’t wearing gentleman garbs, he was dressed in a full red robes of the High Priest of the Red Bitch.  The wavy symbol of his goddess prominently displayed on his chest.  The cloak, which is also a holy symbol, was covering his back.

Hoping to hear something of the conversation taking place, Ranger remained in place for a minute, when a nightmare approached.  A white, almost marble creature approached.  Its skin resembling stone, its body devoid of any hair, its mouth sealed shut, under its skin vines were withering coming closer and fading away from vision.  There were no doubts now who the enemy was, for this was the Avatar of the Tree, one of the most powerful and feared creatures of all.  It approached the campfire, and obviously saying something, even though no noise came from its sealed mouth, as the rest of the creatures cowered but listened.  After a second or two, it reared its head, and its white, iris-less eyes, looked straight at the Ranger.  Again it must have said something, somehow, for every creature reacted in an instant, and rushed the invisible hero.

Ranger, took no time, he got up and started to run, barely in time to avoid withering vines which sprang from the ground where he was, inches from capturing him.  High Priest cast a spell, but since he couldn’t see the Ranger it went awry.  The Orcs must have been given some kind of direction for they kept running after Ranger on mass.

Barely being able to avoid the Orcs the Ranger run towards the party, and once there quickly appraised the rest of the party of the situation.

After very brief conversation whereby many ideas, including splitting a party, were voiced.  The decision was made to drink invisible potion, and run away together.

Ranger took the point, and with incredible skill managed to lead the party out of the danger.  Orc party after Orc party was heard, but each time Ranger managed to assess their location, and veer off away from the enemies.  It was a small miracle, especially given that the invisibility potions only lasted about 10 minutes, but the party managed to run away.

This time no caution, and no time was taken.  Directly did the party run towards Hisred, not sparing themselves and not resting.

Exhausted the party reached Hisred, and this time they were not questioned but were instead directly taken to see the Captain.

“It is Avatar of the Tree!”, the Monk exclaimed.

“Are you sure? Describe it to me!”, Captain Fainly asked.

After the description no doubt was left, and resignation captain explained.

“We must hold here, we must slow them down so that the realm can prepare for the onslaught”, Fainly said.

It was a death sentence, and everybody knew it.

“You must all run as quickly as you can to the King.  I will provide all the supplies you need, and in the morning you go.  I think we have good day of safety at least, so we should have plenty of time to do this properly”, Captain said.

“Come with us! Let’s all go it be safer together!”, Hafling pleaded.

“No, if we go then Orcs can invade the rest of the Realm without warning, and that would mean almost certain destruction of the realm.  We must hold them here, for as long as we can.  We are well provisioned here so the siege will not be easy on the bastards”.  Captain said.

“OK so you have four ways you can go to the king”, he continued

“The Southern road, which is going to be quickest, but also most dangerous.  It is almost certain that Orcs will be present with force upon it.  However you can get to the capital in 2.5 weeks, maybe even sooner if you push your horses to death”

“Cross country , which I know you can make it with the Ranger as a guide.  It won’t be as fast, probably 3 weeks, but should be much safer”

“The Norther Kingsroad.  This will be slowest, but likely the safest.  The road has not been repaired since the Civil War, and with the many small towns and villages, it is crowded.  I would say it will take you 4 weeks of travel, but you almost certainly will get there safety”
“Finally you can go straight north towards the Eagletown, which is only 4 days away.  Once there you can alert the Duke of the Invasion, and take a boat down river to the Capital.  This should prove to be second faster way, maybe 2.5 weeks if you hurry and if you get a fast boat, maybe even sooner”.

The choice was clear, and it was the northern way was chosen.

“Kagan please come in”, Captain asked his guards.

A man of average height and build showed up, his easy smile and friendly manner put everybody at ease.

“This is Kagan, he is a priest of  god Uruan, and he will go with you as my representative” , Captain said.

Uruan is the god of War/Cities/Peace/and Soil (farming); and his priest tend to vary between serious and warlike, to easygoing and peaceful, it was obvious that Kagan was one of the latter.

The party stumbled into beds, while Captain Fainly took care of the rest.

Unfortunately it was not going to be a good rest, for the party was awoken just before dawn.
“The Orcs are marching and are close, you must go!”  Captain Fainly said.

There was nothing much to be said.  After quick goodbyes the party got on their horses and rode out of Hisred, taking the Northern route as quickly as they could.

A day into their travel, they noticed the dreaded undead harpies flying overhead.   Cautiously they moved forward and noticed a priest of the Necromancer king standing along with a pair of mail clad Zombies, and a pair of dogs that have been turned, via vile magic to the famous Ghast Dog, guardians of the foul priests.

Not wasting any words the Priest ordered his dogs to attack.

The Harpies swooped down at the party, the Dogs charged, the Zombies stumbled and the priest cast silence on the Hafling.

Dragonkin charge the Dogs, while Kagan follow.  Monk went after the Zombies initially, since that was quickest way to the Priest, and Hafling used his staff to attack the Harpies.

The fight started horribly for the heroes, for the Dragonkin was paralyzed by the Ghast dogs, the Ranger was held by the Priest spell, and the Hafling was helpless without being able to make any sound.

Kagan tried to dispel the Ghasts magic, but to no avail.  The Harpy picked up Ranger and took him to the skies, dropping him from a long distance.  This almost proved fatal, and the Ranger slipped into unconsciousness.  The Dogs ripped into the Dragonkin, almost putting him under; while the Monk proved once again that his training made him deadly as he easily took down a zombie.

Another Harpy picked up poor Hafling, but only managed to fly him few feet before he managed to pry himself free and landed with little damage, but it did reinforced his fear and hate for the foul creatures.

Situation looked bleak, with half the party either unable to move or unconscious, but the end was not near, for Kagan prayed and a healing energy restored the Ranger, the Monk, and the Dragonkin.

After this the momentum shifted.  The Monk’s fists and feet flew in rapid succession killing one of the dogs, while Dragonkins faith induced power made short work of the second dog.  The Ranger killed the harpy, and the Hafling brandishing his staff managed to kill the other harpy.  This made everybody stop for a second, as the scene of a Hafling wizard brandishing a stick and smashing it across a harpy  that flew almost 10 feet up from the ground, was a sight to see.

It was then that the Hafling realize that, wait a minute, silence spell is not targeted, it is area affect!  All he has to do was move out of it!  Feeling rather sheepish he quickly run past the area of affect, regaining the use of his spells.

Priest cast the spell which raised the dogs once again, which once again turned the battle against the party.  However he didn’t count on the Monk’s fury, in but few seconds the dogs were put down once again, this time permanently.
Dragonkin, the Monk, the Ranger charged the Priest, while the Wizard cast spells.

The fight was brutal but short, and the priest fell to the combined fury of the heroes.

A minute after the battle a noise reached the parties ears: shuffling, moaning, groaning noises of hordes upon hordes of zombies.

The invasion was from multiple sides…

The Knights of the Stairs

In the year 1270 since the founding of the Kingdom of Numa the Kingdom was prosperous and peaceful.  The King Telurk II the Wise , son of Telurk I, ruled the realm.  He was beloved by all, and renowned for his wisdom, compassion, and justice.  People from far away would come to hear him speak, and to have him resolve their disputes.

His person was protected by 1000 strong Knights of the Throne.  The order drew its members from the flower of the Kingdoms nobility, and were the epitome of the “knight in shinny armor”.  They took an oath of loyalty, swearing that they would rather die in protecting their King then escape with their lives.  Their status and prestige made them the envy of the realm and their prowess in battle was renowned throughout the world, or so at least they claimed.

At the end of the year, the King celebrated feast of the Thanksgiving, surrounded by the most common of people as well as the highest of nobility, all watched diligently by the Knights of the Throne.

The merrymaking went out deep into the evening, when disaster struck.  For on this day the evil Necromancer-King of Veeribur, and his vile army of the undead, made his way through the underground and into the castle killing all those who were present.

Seeing the horror that was upon them the Knights of the Throne fled, leaving their shinny shields, their polished swords, and their pride.  Only 30 of the Knights remained protecting the king, and escorting him to safety.  Along with the knights 22 common man-in-arms joined the cause leaving only 52 to protect his majesty.  Most of the 22 picked up their weapons and armor from the discarded pile left over by the Knights of the Throne.

Seeing that escape was not possible through the door, decision was made to go down through the sewers of the Castle.
Finding their way past the horde of the undead, the protectors made their way to the stairs leading down into the dungeon and the sewers that lie below.

It was then that the full wrath of the Necromancer-King struck, for seeing the escaping King the evil horde swarmed.
There was not going to be an escape and the protectors decided to stand their ground on the winding stairs.  Each man taking a stair while 4 plus the king made their way to safety.
One by one they fell, each buying their death with the blood of the horrors in front of them, each fighting until no more strength remained.
Their heroism bought the King enough time to escape, leaving but 2 alive from the original 52.

Making his way past the sewers and into the town, the King took a horse and fled the city into the near by camp of soldiers.  Rallying his troops and picking up any fighting men nearby the king went to reclaim his throne.

The Necromancer-King didn’t expect such a quick and determined response, and the King’s forces after a bloody battle, managed to defeat the undead horrors, felling the Necromancer-King in the process.

The bravery of the King that day added to his reputation, and no other tried to attack his kingdom though his lifetime.

As to the Knights of the Throne, the king did not disband the order, rather turning it from one of prestige to one of shame.  Membership into this order is a disgrace, a penalty given for acts of cowardice, major negligence or minor treason.  The Knights of the Throne wear clothing tailored to look like Armor, their heads covered in  feathers, and for a weapon their carry a feather stuffed “sword” made out of wool.  To be placed into this order is the biggest disgraced that a noble can attain to.

Instead of the Knights of the Throne, the king formed Knights of the Stairs an order of elite warriors that is forever 52 men strong.  While the rank is mostly composed of sons of nobility, this is only due to the fact that only noble have time and resources for proper training, for membership in this order is one of merit only.  All members are equal their ranks left behind once the oath is sworn.  They are the elites, and the best that the Kingdom can give.

 

Kings Wrath

“They Killed them all!”
“They murdered the whole village!”

The mayor kept yelling, calling for blood.  The Kingsguards for most part ignored him, but it was obvious they were deeply affected by the carnage around them.  They stripped the party of their weapons, and armor and went up the Kings Highway towards the Capital.
About an hour into a trip a larger Kingguard force arrived along with pair of Knights of the Stairs, an elite unit of military.  Why they were in the neighborhood was not revealed as the Knights of the Stairs didn’t offer any explanation.  From the original guards one was chosen, and along with the Mayor were the only witness to the massacre that came along.

The day after the battle, the Ranger took Ill.  Since the rest of the party was still hurt hardly anybody noticed at first.  It was after the next day that the Paladin also took Ill that everybody remembered the rats and their infectious bite.  Fortunately the power of Paladins faith cured both him and the Ranger of their disease.

Outside of this, the trip to the capital was uneventful, but took a bit longer then expected, as it was an evening of the 3rd day that the party arrived at the gates.  The lateness of the arrival had some unexpected consequences as the rumors have preceded The Party, and hence a throng of people lined up the street to peer at the party.  The crowd wasn’t hostile, but the guards took no chances, as they escorted The Party quickly to the Tower whey they were to spend a night.
The rooms assigned to them were comfortable, given the situation, but there was no mistake that it was a prison.

Spending the evening discussing their situation, and making plans for the trial ahead, the party fell into an uneasy sleep.

Next morning, guards came in and took The Party into a closed room under heavy guards.  Sitting there for hours, did not give anybody any brilliant ideas as to how to get out of this situation.  They decided, however, that Halfling should do the talking, but under heavy threats from the Dragonkin, who kept talking about Halfling stews, head hunting, and such.  It was supposed that this was a pep talk of Dragonkin, although it seemed to have fallen rather short.

After few hours of waiting, the Party was escorted into the presence of the King.  The throne room is big, over 100 feet in length, richly decorated with marble pillars, and stain glass windows.  The throne itself is upon a mahogany pedestal, with golden plates.  In front of the king there were pair of Guards of the Stairs, behind him a Grand Marshal of the Arms and King’s Shield: Trajadius Duke of Kierum, next to the Marshal sat the head Priest of Gord.  The Trajadius is a very old warrior, with great fame both for his wisdom and martial prowess.  His feats are legendary, spanning many of decades.  There are some who insist that he is same Duke Trajadius who fought in the war of the Mad King, over 80 years ago.

The King Sourvil I is a man close to his 30th birthday, having reined for almost 20 years now.  He is known to be a fair, but quick tempered ruler, one who is highly loved by his subjects.  He is a tall man, with a short beard, and thick black hair.  It is obvious that he is strong, and his eyes reveal great intellect.

The Party was set about 50 feet from the throne between two large Candelabras with Diamond tops, instead of Candles.  Few feet away from them was the Mayor Aram who was obviously going to be the prosecutor.

After brief explanation that only one may talk to the King, the trail began.

“I am Marquis Fiaram of House Lierumfi”, the Mayor began

“House Lierumfi?”, The King interrupted, “The one whose members died in a fire 20 years ago?”
“I am honored that you remembered, your majesty, indeed that is the same house”

“How did you, pray tell, survived the fire?”, King asked

“I was not present in the house, I was serving as squire to Duke of the Eagletown, as a matter of fact I didn’t learn of the tragedy until 2 month time, as we were scouting the area at the time”, Mayor said.

“You have our sympathies”, said the King, “Please proceed”.

“These people, came into our town, shot the priest and run, after which time they came back and massacre the population, I’ve seen them killing the sheriff!”, said Mayor

The king looked at The Party, and said
“What say you to these charges”

“We came to the town as travelers, but on the way to the town we came upon a Women who apparently was on a verge of being raped, only to discovered that it was a trap.  We went to the Town and the women turned out to be the Mayor’s Daughter..”, Halfing said

“Daughter?”, Mayor interrupted, “Your Majesty, I have no children! My wife died in childbirth over a decade ago, and my son followed her soon after”

This threw the Party into a confusion, and made King quite suspicious of them.
The trial continued for some time with the Party and the Mayor exchanging accusations, and defense.  Until the King called the Guard who apprehended the party in the Town to come testify.  Noticing that his testimony differed from the Mayor the Hafling jumped on the opportunity.

“Your majesty!”, he said, “how could the Mayor seen us killing the Sherif when he didn’t came back, as the Guard testify, until after the whole affair was over?”
“Do please explain that, Fiaram?”, asked the King

“Oh, Fuck it!”, said the Mayor.
Quickly he reached into the folds of his robes producing a large orb from within them, and threw that onto the ground.  The orb shattered and a great flame engulfed the whole of the throne room, killing all but one guard within it.  In addition two huge Fire Elementals spawned.  The party was protected by the Candelabras which were magical, and prevented spell effects from happening around them.  The king, and the Marshal were protected by some kind of barrier surrounding the Throne, but the Priest of Gord burned to death in the conflagration.

Amazingly the Throne room itself did not catch fire, and the general melee ensue.  Dragonkin charge the elementals, while Monk charged the Mayor, and the Hafling run away from the candelabras.
Mayor, who turned out to be a high level Cleric, cast a spell upon the king, but the fires of the spells were redirected by the barrier around the King.  Monk connected with one of his blows at the Cleric, and the Dragonkin managed to hit the elemental with his spell.

Marshal step in front of the king, his sword ensheathed, ready to die for his liege.

Everybody knew that there was no possible way to survive the Elementals, but there was only need to hold on for a bit, because rescue was sure to be on its way.  Unfortunately the tide of battle quickly turned against the heroes, with Monk being hit with a devastating spell that just about killed him, and the Dragonkin being badly burned by the elementals.

Th Mayor cast a powerful spell on the King, where fire and divine energy came straight from heaven to smite him, but the spell was absorbed by the crown that the King was wearing.

“So the legends were true!”, Mayor said without much of a surprise.

Finally voices could be heard in the hallway, including shouts of priests.  Knowing that he soon would have more then he could have dealt with, the Mayor cast another spell which took him away from the throne room.  The elementals disappeared soon after, but not until everybody but the king were wounded and burned.

After the battle the Heroes were taken to a study behind the throne, and the Marshal showed that not only he knew about Dragonkin he also knew how to speak their language.  The King thanks the Heroes and told them to be back sharply the next morning.

When morning came, the party entered the throne room, dressed in provided finest (with exception of the Dragonkin who came in his Paladin’s best) that was cleaned from the burned carpet and furniture over night.

“For the services you have provides us, and for your bravery, we hereby make you Honorary members of the Kings Guards, in addition we bestow upon you title and privileges of the Knights of the Realm! In addition please accept these tokens of our gratitude”

The tokens were pair of Magical Items (Mace +1 and Cloak of Protection +1), plus pouch filled with 2,000 gold pieces.

After the ceremony was over, party was invited into the private conversation with the king, whereby he again expressed his gratitude, and offered them a position as mercenaries in the military.  King, for an unspecified reason felt unease about the Western boarders of the realm and hired the part to go there as a relief to the captain therein.

After a week in which party was treated as celebrities  that they were, a vacation which greatly enhanced the Dragonkin ego, the party set out.

For the first 2 weeks the journey was pleasant with occasional stay in a local villages and town, all of which seemed to have already gotten the word of the Parties deeds.

However at the end of the 2nd week, while party was sleeping, the Halfling spotted group of Chickens approaching the camp.  Hesitant at first if he should awake the party, he noticed quickly that the “chickens” weren’t, they were an evil bird called Cockatrice which can turn a person to stone.  He yelled to awake the party and battle ensued. It was quick and vicious leaving the Ranger and the Dragonkin turned into stone.  Fortunately the petrification was temporary and after a day’s of rest everybody was back to normal, although Dragonkin managed to blame the whole incident on the Halfling who in turned took it in good cheer, which seemed to have aggravated the Paladin even more.

About 2 days away from their destination, the party spotted harpies circling overhead, who attacked as soon as they were in range.  As soon as the Harpies came near to the party it became obvious that these weren’t ordinary monster, for they were clearly undead.  In the ensuing battle, halfling was lifted high into the air and dropped resulting in him coming to the death’s door.  The Harpy did attempt same trick on the Dragonkin but only managed to get few feet of the ground before the Paladin broke the hold.

It took a lot to kill these monsters, for even when they lost limbs they kept coming, seemingly immune to damage.  Finally after battering the Harpies to a pulp the battle was over.

As the dawn broke the party arrived at the city of Hisred, a small but very well fortified frontier town on the edge of the Black Forest.  The town serves Lumberjacks, Farmers, and it is also an military outpost.  The citadel within it is very well fortified and supplied, required only few people to hold it.  However the region has been largely at peace for a long time now, for while occasionally there is a monster or an animal that threatens the citizens, such attacks are quickly dealt with, leaving citizens prosperous and happy.
The Party was escorted to the citadel where Captain Fainly met them.  He is a man obviously used to outdoors, who is exceedingly friendly and an avid fisherman.  He was thankful for the parties arrival, as the garrison has been undermanned lately, but was a bit confused as to the Kings decision to send him reinforcements.  He beamed when he learned that the Ranger and the Monk knew and loved to Fish.  Captain Fainly hinted that he chose this assignment out of love for outdoors, and while he could have a much higher position, he loves what he is doing.  His friendly persona and manners quickly won The Party over.  Captain Fainly asked the party to enjoy themselves, and rest, and he won’t call them for a week.

Unfortunately peace didn’t last a week, for 3 days into the rest The Party were summoned .  Captain explained that there are two things that city needs help with.  The party of Lumberjacks has not returned for couple of days, and The Captain was very afraid as to why.  Secondly a young boy came from a Farm crying that something huge attacked their farm.  Seeing bigger threat within the Lumberjack camp The Party went to investigate.  Once there it became apparent what has happened for in a clearing there were Orcs eating what use to obviously be Lumberjacks.  Among the 10 Orcs there was an Archer dressed in Black Robes who sat away from the Orcs, but who was obviously in charge, as the creatures actively avoided and deferred to it.

The Party Charged, and the Battle started.  The Orcs proved to be dangerous foes, their axes crude but deadly.  However The Mage put few of the Orcs to sleep, while the Paladin and Monk waded into the fray.  It didn’t take long for the Monk and the Paladin to wreck havoc on the Orcs who fell quickly.  Unfortunately two Orcs charged the Mage, who tried to protect himself, but his magic failed him.  The trick that created Mirror Image of himself didn’t fool the Orcs, whose axes caused devastating wounds.  He soon fell into a pool of Blood, dying.
The Archer, obviously skilled and deadly with the bow, managed to pierce Paladin’s Armor, but the Ranger managed to keep the Paladin alive both from the Archer and the Orcs.  Soon the Orcs run in fear, and the party charged the Archer, who by then was unable to penetrate Paladin’s protection.   Non the less it took everything that the Party had to take down the Archer, who turned into shade and flew away from the field of battle.

It was then that Party heard a terrifying sound, an unmistakable sound of Horde of Orcs marching.  Paladin revived the Hafling who send his Familiar to see what was there, only to discovered thousands of Orcs heading down the canyon and almost certainly towards Hisred.

The Kingdom of Numa

Kingdrom of Numa

History

The Kingdom of Numa is named after her first and legendary king Numa who, as the legends go, wrestled the land from the Humanoids, and then defeated Avatar of the Tree in a single combat.  For 2000 years since then the Kingdom has known only one dynasty, which started with Numa, until 80 years ago.  For it was 80 years ago that an Civil War and Orc War raged, which has seen the end of the Dynasty.

War of Succession/Orc Wars

The war started innocently enough, with a death of a heir to the throne in a hunting accident.  Unfortunately this death revealed a well kept secret, the king was mad. In the depths of madness and grief for his lost son, the king killed the rest of his children and fled to the Goblin Marches.  This left none on the throne, and no succession.  As these things always end, factions developed which sparked into a war.  Two powers split the country.  The Duke of the Eagletown and the Duke Qiedar marshaled their forces for the glory of the crown.

The war raged for 5 years until the Goblins invaded the land, destroying much of it, including the fortress of Qiedar, leaving death and destruction in their wake.  The towns were left to fend for themselves, with the population hiding in the “Orc Caves”, a places of refuge carved into mountains, or wherever safety could be found.  As the end looked to be certain, especially with invasion from Veeribur and their undead, an unknown warrior named Fierolic along with Marshal Trajadius at the head of armies from the Great Kingdom and Free Cities Aniur came to the rescue of the Kingdom.

The war ended with the siege of Pierrville (named after Numa’s firstborn) where Humanoids lost their mysterious unification, and turned on each other.  It wasn’t much longer after words that all of the land was freed, both from undead and from monsters.  10 long years of war, both Civil and Invasion ravaged the kingdom.  At the end of which a new king and a new dynasty was born, for Fierolic was crowned, becoming Fierolic I.  His son and now grandson are ruling the land, which is once again peaceful and prosperous.  Currently Sourvil I has been ruler for almost 20 years.  He is a youngish man of around 30 but has earned great deal of respect.  He is known for his fairness but also fiery temperament.

 

Borders

Numa is rich in fertile soil, plenty of rain and sun, richness of coal and iron, but some real bad neighbors.

To the Northwest there is a Kingdom of Veeribur, with their fanatic devotion to Orcus, god of the undead.  Their Necromancer Kings are both powerful and bloodthirsty, always looking for fresh meat for their undead armies.  It is fortunate both for Numa and the rest of the world, that Veeribur Nobility/Priests fight among themselves, always plotting to be the next Necromancer King, and hardly ever able to show unity.  The Pillars of the World which separate Numa from Veeribur, and the Black Forest, provide some protection from the Cultists.  A great fortress of the Eagletown tries to oversea this border.

To the south the Goblin Marches provide constant source of mischief and war.  The vast expenses of the plains are inhospitable to Humans but perfect refuge for Orcs, Goblins, and other monsters.  It is fortunate that Goblins, like Veerbur’s nobility are at least as busy fighting each other as they are fighting others.

To the West there is a Dark Forest, which in this region is savage and deadly, culminating with the Hangman’s Tree also known as the Tree of Madness.  From this the Avatars of the Trees spawn, causing incalculable damage in their wake.

Fortunately for Numa there are also good neighbors on their borders.  To the East there is The Great Kingdom of the Dragon, a powerful and friendly nation.  In time of need their armies are always present to help, without neither asking nor expecting rewards.

To the Northeast there are the Free Cities of Aniur, a loosely unified merchant cities that are quite wealthy, and far more concern with trade than with war.

Directly to the North there is Principality of Karush, formerly a Kingdom of Karush, but have not elected a king in over two centuries.  While there have been troubles in the past and occasional wars, that was centuries ago.  Today Karush is a poor but proud country that doesn’t bother Numa, content to live within its means and borders.

Hangman’s Tree

During the Titanwar there was a Titan who was so twisted, and so evil that the rest of the Titans and gods combined to kill him.   Eventually the combined forces caught up to him, and he fell from his castle in the clouds unto a Redwood impaling himself.  Yet evil such as this doesn’t die easily.  The spirit of the Titan entered the tree, corrupting it and the land around it.  It became sentient, causing death and misery for millennial since.  The tree is blood red and over 400 feet tall, with branches covering a better part of a mile.  The roots of the tree expend for miles around it, ensnaring animals and men alike.  From the branches a long ropes spawn, resembling hangman nooses, and giving its infamous name.
If an unlucky sentient being comes too close to the tree, it becomes trapped within its roots.  For 1000 days the tree torments the creature, expelling a twisted but powerful being.  Consumed by madness from its pain, and the evil of the tree, it becomes the Avatar of the Tree.  Most of the time they are pitiful creatures without any shred of intellect left.  They go back and forth killing anything in their paths, but without ability to think, they are vanquished with minimal loss of life.  Yet once every few centuries a creature’s mind survives the tree, emerging twisted and corrupt but able to reason.  Such Avatars are deadly enemies, which ravage the country.  It is during these times that the true power of the tree is manifested, to the woe of every living being.

Religion

Kingdom of Numa follows the Seven and has a well established Church devoted to their worship.  At the head of the Church is the High Priest of Gord, whose job is to settle any religious disputes and oversea the rest of the temples.  The Church keeps a healthy distance from the mundane, both legally and traditionally having no ability to enter into the secular matters.  It provides for the poor, and the touched (i.e. mad), as well as presiding over spiritual well being of the land.   There are over thirty holy days observed, where both business and pleasure is shunned.  Currently the High Priest is called Sevorus and is a stern but kindly old man.

Priestess of the Red Bitch

On the way to the Capital of Numa, a party of adventurers traveled down the King’s Road, an old but well maintained highway.  Most days travel was uneventful as few would dare to break Kings Peace of the Road, and even fewer would attack a party of armed men.

A week into their journey the road wind down into an old dry river bed with high embankments.  It was in the late morning that a Woman’s scream interrupted the day travel.  There was a moment hesitation as Quan, a Human Monk, and Finnigan a Hobbit Wizard suspected a trap, but the will of the fearsome looking Black Dragonborn Paladin prevailed and the party rushed up the small hill, leaving their horses behind.

Once there they seen a horrible sight, a half-naked Woman kneeling in front of two thugs was crying for help.  Having no choice but to save the damsel, the Paladin, and a nameless Ranger charged.  As soon as they did, however, a Woman deftly leapt on the horse, and yelled:
“Remember to leave one alive for Sacrifice!” and back away.

In her carelessness she revealed a sign of an aspect of Ialviell called “The Red Bitch”, a cult of fire and hate, branded into her breast.
From the trees and brushes four other thugs emerged armed with Crossbows and axes.

A short but bloody battle raged, where the Halfling was pierced by bolts, Thugs were shadowboxing…for some unknowable reason, and Paladin was brought within inches of death.  The Ranger showed his skill with bow by piercing the heart of a thug, while the Wizard found a healing spell, only to forgotten it shortly after.

In the fight the Woman run away towards a town of Aram, which, the party knew, was but couple hours ride.

Yet there was no chance to pursue the Priestess, for that is what the Woman must have been, as the party was on a bring of death.  Therefore they chose to rest on a King’s Road an illegal act, but one of desperation.

Fortunately no King’s Guards appeared and so the night passed and as soon as dawn broke the Party set to go to Aram.

The Town of Aram, a more properly a village, is similar to many such towns around a southeaster border of Numa, it has tall wooden palisades,  a compliment of guards, and a priest.  As the Party arrived at the town, they were challenged by young guard, who summoned the militia.  In mare moments a group of armed and angry men surrounded the party and disarmed them, as the Priestess, now dressed in common and prim dress singled them out as would be rapist.  The mayor, who was father of the girl, was incensed wanting instant justice, by hanging.  Yet the Priest and the Sheriff calm people down, before a lynch mob could be formed, instead forming a trial.

At first trial didn’t go well, but then the party remembered about the mark on the priestess and demanded that the Girl was examined.  A quarrel ensued by before examination could be complete a bolt pierced the Priests heart killing him instantly.

A pandemonium ensued with the Paladin and Ranger running after whomever shot the Priest.  The Monk went after the weapons, while the Wizard tried to talk with the Sheriff.
In the Chaos the Priestess escaped, however Sheriff knew where she must have gone… an Orc Cave, so called as it was a place of refuge during the Orc Wars.

Party went after the Priestess, and about hour into the two hour journey they run into a a dead horse, obviously lame and dying.  They put it out of its misery and went up towards the cave.

The Cave was natural, but made smoother by Men, and after quick conversation, where the Ranger ensured that nobody would be leaving the cave, the party set in.  They came to a fork, which lead to a wider right passage and narrower left one.  Quick examination to the left revealed a narrow passage ending with a fission, and therefore party decided to go to a right.  This turned out to be primarily living section with beds,  empty chests, food and water.

During examination of a refuse pile, the Ranger got attacked by some Dire Rats who made their home in it, and ate all of the food/drink stashed by the villagers. The Paladin and Ranger got bit, and bloody but soon enough the rats became nothing more than bloody mess on Paladin’s mace.

The left passage was narrow, so that only the Halfling could comfortably get through, but despite fear of possible ambush the party got through to the fissure without much problems. The fissure itself was around 5 feet wide, with loose stone, stalagmites, and very uneven ground.  The Monk jump the obstacle without any issues, and Paladin handed him the Halfling, after which he too made the jump.  Unfortunately Ranger slipped as his foot came down, and fell onto the rocks, at the bottom of the pit.

It was shortly after the Ranger was taken up from the pit that the party heard the death chant of the Priestess.  They slowly made their way towards the end of the corridor, weary and hurt, but determined.  The corridor ended with a large pillar and a sharp 90 degree turn so that it was impossible to see to its end.

Taking few seconds to observe the ground and the refuse pile, the party crept forward, only to step on some caltrops.  The Paladin’s foot was injured, and the worse was yet to come, for as the Paladin lifted the Halfling so that he could cast a spell, a bolt of flame shot from the waiting priestess and engulfed the Wizard in flames bringing him to the brim of death.

The Monk and the Paladin rushed forward, but due to the narrowness of the area could hardly fight against the Mail clad fanatic.  Paladin fell from a deadly spell, and the monk soon followed.  The Ranger, wounded, was the last hope of the party, and he charged bravely forward.  After series of exchanged with their weapons, the Priestess scored an almost fatal wound, but somehow the Ranger stayed on his feet, finally delivering a deadly strike.

As the priestess fell dying she screamed:
“You fools! The consecration is complete! You are too late!”

Only the Ranger was left standing, but he found among the Priestess belonging potions of healing, and shared those with the party.  Bloody, and bruised though they were, the brave adventurers realized what the dying Priestess meant! They quickly left the cave and stumbled to save the town.

They galloped to the town, and with only the loss of the Halflings pony they made it, only to find the Town engulfed in flames, the palisades broken.  As the party made it to the center of the Town, they seen 15 fanatics encircling around 20 villages, before anything could be done the fanatics  tossed clay jars of some kind, which burst into flames engulfing everybody in magical flame.
Only a sheriff was left, and he was fighting one of his guards, a friendly fella called Saemundur who now wore the ropes of the High Priests of the Red Bitch.

Just before the party made it to help the Sheriff, the guard delivered a fetal blow.

Undeterred the party fought the guard, and vanquish him, despite the magic at his disposal.  Yet before the final blow could be delivered the cloak that the Priest was wearing burst into flame, ending his life.

It was at that moment that the Kings Guards along with the Mayor rushed into the town, to see the party standing over the ashes of villages and bloody buddy of the Sheriff with the Mayor screaming:
“They killed them all!”