A God Am I

Chapter 3 Part 3: Secrets, Lies and Secret Lies
The Brass Orb

Just moments ago, the Defenders of Nubereg fulfilled their quest and found Comptess Nubereg.

In the course of their journey, they now found themselves once again an ancient temple, and once again mired in the affairs of Orbs of Dragonkind. the Comptess, insisting they call her Etaine, was more than happy to help the group figure out the reason Nubereg was attacked, if first they would help her find the relic she sought.

First she needed to be caught up to speed. A year had passed since she departed from Denhagen with the historian Lemisk. She figured out quickly Lemisk was no scholar, more likely a spy from one of the eastern nations. Ekern, Thenes, one of those. Curiosity compelled her to help Lemisk to find this location, though she knew he would probably try to kill her eventually anyway.

Ironically, they never got to that point. Etaine, Lemisk and his retinue had refused the “protection” of a trade company’s armed guard, and within a day they were ambushed by a gang of trolls and kobolds, led by a nasty two-headed troll.

Etaine escaped with just the clothes on her back and discovered the shrine. She was trying to figure out her next action when the cockatrices set upon her. The group were happy to reunite her with her possessions, found in the trolls’ loot.

Etaine was especially fascinated with Fossil. Many times in her youth she had explored the ruins north of Nubereg. She recognized the warforged as one of the “statues” that stood vigil over the old temple. She dabbled a bit into the history of the ruins, but she had no notes with her, and the rest of her research remained at her home in Denhagen. She would be happy to help them decipher the riddle of who and why the orb was stolen, but first she needed their help to find the relic of this temple.

With Damien and Aki taking the front, many traps were found and disarmed. As they delved deeper, the group realized the temple was once above ground, and some sort of natural calamity cause the temple and a druid’s grove to fall deep underground.

The collapsed grove smelled of decay the belied simple rotting plants. Sir Henry sensed a palpable evil in the place. Some divining showed an overpowering aura of unholy negative energies throughout. Keeping alert, the group pressed onward.

Among the ruins was the trunk of a long-fallen tree, covered with mould and mushrooms. As they drew closer, the tree rose up. An undead treant – Sha’Riven named it mortuviridi, a great blasphemy against nature.

The mortuviridi animated other fallen trees to join the attacks. Etaine and Aki were both taken out of the fight, infected with a blight of undead mushrooms.

With a liberal dose of evil smiting and alchemical fire, the trees were laid to rest. Henry and Sha’Riven drove out the unholy fungus, and for the second time in a day Comptess Nubereg was in the heroes’ debt.

Some searching followed after a moment to collect themselves. A magical effect known as a necrotic miasma. It sapped energy from living material (plant included, it seemed), and that which died in the area would rise as undead. Etaine and Henry both knew of a place called the Barren which it was said the dead rose. The temple seemed to suffer the same effect.

The group continued, eager to find their goal and be done with the temple.

More undead plants slowed their descent, but finally the group reached what must have once been a sacred stone circle before whatever befell the area struck.

The remains of a berobed skeleton, surrounded by a score of broken warforged lay beside an altar. Upon the altar lay the Brass orb of Dragonkind.

The group was on guard, however, seeing as though the trees were undead, the bodies before then were likely to rise as well. The wizardly corpse rose first, followed by the warforged.

The undead wizard let out a hellish screech as she was destroyed. As she crumbled to dust, the other animated dead too fell. Soon, the necrotic miasma dissipated as well.

Fossil touched the Orb, and he was hit with another vision, like the one in Nubereg.

This time, the last images of the previous holder of the Orb replayed.


The defeat of a God…

The Orbs casts to the corners of the known world…

The Archdruidess who took possession of the Brass Orb housed it in a sacred grove, surrounded by the full force of Nature to defend and hid the artifact. As well, animated soldiers, their lifeforce granted by the Orbs themselves.

The ageless priestess stood vigil over the Orb, until one day, the necromancer’s armies descended upon the grove.

The druidess fought them off as long as she could, the warforged joining her. The necromancer was destroyed, but with her death she cursed the grove, and killed the druidess and collapsed the whole temple upon itself.


Fossil recovered from his trance, and the Heroes of Nubereg made their way out of the haunted place.

Now the task at hand was to determine who sought these Orbs, and why. The first stop was the village of Nonce. From there, back to Denhagen, and finally home to Nubereg.

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Chapter 3 Part 2: Secrets, Lies and Secret Lies
Bog Trolls and Stone Women

With only a crude map and vague idea of what they face, the group headed out again into the wild.

After a less-than-warm welcome in Denhagen, the erstwhile Heroes of Nubereg were fugitives from the legal rulers of the city, as well as the unofficial captains of the Underworld, the Dashers Guild.

After leaving town as quickly as possible, the group first returned the Hunters’ Lodge where their last bit of trouble took place.

From there, the group set out south and westward.

From Nubereg’s notes, she planned to travel overland, first disguised as a merchant caravan until past the Common Road, then through the wilderness with the enigmatic Lemisk, and a smaller group of scouts to aid them.

The group traveled three days on the Common Road until they came across the tiny town of Nonce.

The group were able to recover from their journey and gather some supplies for the longer journey. Not wanting to draw undue attention, the group split into two smaller groups. With Aki, Fossil, and Sha’Riven being the more conspicuous they remained acamp in the countryside.
Meanwhile, it fell to Henry and Damien to get outfitted and gather any word of caravan traffic through these parts.

A trading post within a day’s travel was the likely place where Nubereg parted ways with the caravan. The region’s trading companies paid a stipend which covered upkeep of the road and a guard company to patrol the road. Given the lack of a central ruler outside of small townships, it was the only real order in the region west of Denhagen.

After several days of travel without incident, the group’s luck ran dry. A large horde of kobolds charged them at sundown.

Despite the numerical advantage, the kobolds were no match for the road-weary adventurers. Rather than slaughtering them outright, Aki Warflame merely subdued their leader and demanded the rest swear fealty to him.

And so the totemist was crowned Chief Aki, King of the Warflame Clan.

Aki’s first act as king was to discover his Clan was subordinate to a troll warlord who ruled the region outside of the guard company’s influence. When prodded, the kobolds revealed the troll’s lair was a haunted cave deeper in the moor that borders the Common Road.

With a possible destination within reach, the group heads into moors, with a kobold honour guard guiding them. With the kobolds’ aid and Aki’s enhanced hunters’ sense, they make easy headway towards the “haunted cave”.

As they get closer, they see the cave in actually a very overgrown temple. One built hundreds of years earlier.

As they traversed the wetlands, the group was ambushed by aquatic trolls. Attempts this time at diplomacy were not met well, so combat was engaged.

From their cover, Aki’s kobolds harried the bog trolls long enough for Fossil to conjure acid to leave the creatures permanently dead. The kobolds informed the group that the troll warlord was still at large.

Finally the temple itself was found, at upon arrival, the troll warlord appeared. it was actually a two-headed troll by the names of Gark and Nerk.

Gark alone might have been agreeable to diplomacy, but Nerk would have none of that. Summoning the remaining bog trolls in their gang, Gark and Nerk fought to the death. Fossil used the remaining charges of the red wizards’ fire orb wand to keep them dead.

The trolls left behind a rich bounty. The creatures had sporadically raided caravans unprotected by the guard company.

Among the treasures was a set of arcane scrolls mean to break enchantments, as well as a suit of magical armour that replaced the dented and rusted breastplate worn by Sir Henry.

The temple itself after a brief search, revealed an entrance to lower levels. After deciding to rest for the evening and start at dawn, the group set camp.

Rooting through the items of the trolls, they found evidence of the expedition of Comptess Nubereg; the travel notes and spellbook of Her Ladyship were among them. Thus the fate of Comptess Nubereg was determined, likely in the belly of a troll.

Dawn came soon enough. Sha’Riven located a secret entrance to the temple, and immediately Damien set out to find likely traps. Oddly enough some were found, but most were already sprung, and some marked clearly.

Someone or thing had already been through the ruins, and they left a trail to follow. Cautiously, the group did so.

The trail ended with a statue of a woman. From the looks of it, she did not want to be set in stone.

Then a skittering sound revealed where the statue came from. A flock of cockatrices descended upon the party, each with a peck that could turn a grown person to stone.

Frantic combat ensued, and the group luckily did not turn to stone.

Catching their breath, the group came to the conclusion this statue was the very same Comptess whom they sought.

Fossil was able to decipher the scroll to break the magical petrification, and at long last, the group found Comptess Etaine Nubereg.

After recovering briefly, Etaine (as she insisted they call her), revealed some of her findings. The temple they were in once was a shrine to an Elven nature god. The druidess who built the shrine was one of the heroes who brought low the God Emperor Thenacus centuries earlier.

Somewhere in this temple she was certain they would find the Brass Orb of Dragonkind.

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Chapter 3 Part 1: Secrets, Lies and Secret Lies
Stand Together or Fall Apart

When we last saw our Heroes…

The intrepid adventurers, having endured a hellish journey through the Dïrkwald, finally arrived in Denhagen.

The first order of business was to seek out the Church of Wee Jas. They informed the clergy of Igor Von Grimm’s death. His soul accounted-for, the next task was to seek out Lord Nubereg’s sister, the Comptess Nubereg.

Arriving at the Nubereg House (the Denhagen residence of the Nubereg Clan), the party was firmly rebuffed. Despite letters of introduction with the Clan seal, the staff of Nubereg House was unwilling to grant entrance to the group.

Damien suggested a more “creative” approach to entering the house (i.e. burglary), but Sir Henry resolutely fought all suggestions. Since it was growing dark and the town register was closed, the paladin suggested seeking an inn for the night.

Finally relenting, Damien and the rest found an inn along the shores to decamp for the night.

A few minutes after arriving, a shady figure found Damien and confronted him about business incomplete.

The man was evasive, but he implied Damien was in the pocket of some influential people in Denhagen, and he was to address their mutual business promptly.

Damien tried to slip away later that night, but Sir Henry (self-righteous beyond scope) and Sha’Riven (happy to just be included) shadowed him.

Before Damien could meet with his “business associates,” Sir Henry was spotted by the same. Sensing an ambush, armed and masked thugs descended on Damien, Sha’Riven and Garrickson.

Combat was quick and messy, with Sha’Riven getting cut up rather badly before the thugs were defeated. Henry confronted Damien, accusing him of being in league with organized criminals. Then he went as far as to accuse Damien of working with the air pirates that invaded Nubereg to begin with.

Hearing enough, Damien parted company with the paladin, but not before using his own healing potion to stabilize Sha’Riven. Frustrated, Henry took the elf to the Temple of Bahamut to tend to her wounds.


Meanwhile, back at the Inn, Fossil and Aki were arrested on unclear ground by the town watch, and were hauled off to places unknown.


Damien struck deeper into the bowels of Denhagen, and found the “associates” that sought him earlier.

The Dasher Guild, (smugglers, fences and associated enterprises) did not like the news of Damien’s stock being destroyed in the attack on Nubereg, and very much did not like the unsanctioned killing of three “Chaps” earlier in the evening.

All would be forgiven if first Damien would find out some information. Seems a stranger came to town about a year ago seeking a tomb of some sort in the region. He paid good coin for information, which led him to the Comptess Nubereg.
Another man recently came to town seeking the same information, by the Comptess has not been seen for months. The official word in that Her Ladyship returned to Nubereg, but Damien himself could attest that isn’t the case.

Damien was to find out what Nubereg was looking for, obtain it, and get it back to the Dashers.

As for the other matter of dead Chaps, the do-gooder and his elf bitch were already targeted for assassination.


Aki and Fossil were bustled quickly into a dark cell, well away from the general population. They were told that they would have to answer for their crimes.


At the church of the Platinum Dragon, Sir Henry stewed over the despicable actions of Damien. He had checked several times all of his new companions, the savage, the elf, the construct, Poor Dead Igor, Damien, none had the taint of evil about them.

As he watched over the convalescing Sha’Riven, he had a mini crisis of faith. Wondering if Bahamut thought him unworthy to sense evil.

Ecclesiastical theory took a backseat however when suddenly the room became supernaturally dark, and armed assailants attacked.

It looked like Sir Henry was about done for, when help arrived.

Damien had had his own crisis of faith after being told of the contract of the insufferable knight’s life. But since he disliked Sir Henry slightly less than the Dasher’s he decided to help out. Beside, Sha’Riven seemed nice enough.

The killer was killed, Sha’Riven was recovered, and all three made an uneasy peace.

After alerting the clergy to the dead assassin therein, the three set off back to the inn.

And then discovered Aki & Fossil were arrested hours earlier.


In the deep prison of Denhagen, Aki and Fossil pondered the best way to break out. Since Aki did not recognize the authority of his jailers, and Fossil did not recognize any crime committed, neither felt the need to wait for jurisprudence.

But their plans were proven unnecessary when a poorly disguised Sir Henry unlocked the cell and bustled them out.

With some convincing that their arrest was unlawful, Sir Henry agreed an extrajudicial jailbreak was not an evil or unlawful act. When guile proved unsuccessful, he simply knocked out the guards, took their uniform and why were they talking about it, they needed to leave RIGHT NOW.


The group finally reunited, they decided discretion was a fool’s game. They broke into Nubereg House, and very firmly told the staff to cut the crap and fess up.

Backs to the wall, the house butler admitted the Comptess disappeared over a year ago, and they were busily making excuses while discreetly trying to find her.

Dangerous people from the Empire of Thenes had been asking for and after her, and the local criminal element were trying to pry as well.

With no other choice, the staff allowed the PCs to search through Her Ladyship’s notes.

A name, Lemish, and a crude map were found in the personal notes of Nubereg. These connected the dots with the dead scout’s notes found in the Hunters’ Lodge.

Several days ride south was an abandoned temple, and the group knew now how to find it.

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Interlude
Elsewhere...

Marshal Nemina’s flagship, the Will, docked in her private airship base.

Far from the eyes and ears of any senator or Ministry of Safety minions, Nemina was certain nothing would take this victory from her.

She barked orders to her subcommanders and took the orb with her to her personal quarters.

Her scout had served his purpose exceptionally. It was a pity he disappeared before she could properly reward him. He scouts her handpicked for their loyalty and discretion. She was certain he met with a bad end, defection was not in their vocabulary.

No matter. The White Dragon Orb was now on its way to Emperor Thenacus XII, May He Live and Rule For Eternity. She removed her heavy field armour and readied herself for His summons.


A day, then two passed. Nemina was accustomed to His Excellency’s whim, and did not let her impatience show.

Finally on the third day after her arrival, Nemina was ordered to present herself to the Emperor at once.

Enroute to the palace, Nemina was accosted by the one man she had wanted to avoid.

Roltus, Minister of Safety by name, but in truth the Superintendent of Thenacus’s Secret Police.

“Marshal!” the vile man purred. “I trust your great adventure was fruitful? His Excellency is becoming impatient with our lack of progress against the Four Nations.”

Nemina continued to stride towards the audience chamber, her disgust quite easy to see.

“The Emperor is confident in my plans, Minister. Don’t you have addled vagabonds to execute for sedition, or children to torture for disloyalty?” She knew his underlings, the Black as the Emperor called them, were desperate to find out what her excursion was really about. His continued prying satisfied Nemina that she had not been betrayed.

“I would never question his Will, Marshal. And I assure you, all His enemies will be found.”

The leaders of the Black and the White both entered the chamber at the same time. Nemina grew more annoyed. It looked like the viper was going to be there for her triumph. So be it.

Thenacus XII (May He Live and Rule For Eternity) sat on his throne, enjoying the subtle warfare between His White and Black. Underlings needed to be constantly set against each other, both to strengthen them, and keep them from plotting against Him.

Cunning little Roltus, and loyal, unimaginative Nemina, so different in their uses and values. He was pleased enough with both their fields of expertise, but He would not dare let them think He was satisfied.

“Marshal Nemina! Enemies amass at our borders! Orcs from the Steppe threaten Xix, the Four Kindoms are painfully cooperative, and the Morgors are not at each others’ throats. And yet you run off on a personal excursion! Explain why your head does not decorate the wall!”

He did not expect grovelling or excuses. Nemina (sweet fool) believed in Thenes. She would apologize, and redouble her efforts.

She instead drew forth the White Orb.

Stunned for a moment, the Emperor burst into laughter. He never thought in all His years anything could surprise Him.

Looking then at the stunned rage on Roltus’s face made Him laugh again. Truly it was a great day…

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Chapter 2: The Sacred Hunt
When you step off the road, you enter the food chain...

Previously…
IMG_1404.JPG

The Defenders of Nubereg set out on the Old Road, tasked with seeking Lord Nubereg’s scholarly sister and trying to pursue the invaders who stole the mysterious White Orb.

With no other leads to go on, the group gathered up whatever traveling gear they could, mounted up and began their journey.

The first day went by without incident, but as night fell, the weather began to take a bad turn. The close proximity of the Konkresh Mountains cause occasional spring storms, and the temperature dipped back into winter. Aki and Fossil were unperturbed, and Sha’Riven was accustomed enough to the region, but Igor, Sir Henry and Damien were all quite miserable.

The freezing rain continued for another day and night, and then something else popped up to ruin the groups’ collective day:

A deep ravine along the Old Road had had a sturdy bridge built across it, but from its current state, it looked like the attacking airship destroyed the bridge to slow any would-be pursuers.

With no other choice (except giving up and going back, which Damien was an advocate of), Sha’Riven led the group overland, hoping to find a narrow ford to the ravine. If there was such a route, it was a 50/50 chance they went in the right direction.

Night of the third day brought a deadly bit of misfortune, when a swarm of stirges killed their horses, and left Damien sorely depleted.

Greatly slowed and now on foot, the group finally found a means across the ravine and could continue onward to Denhagen.

Going got tougher, with the group injured, afoot, and walking through the wilderness. Henry and Fossil were not suited for this environment, and Damien was recovering from blood loss.

Day four was slow, but at the very least, the weather cleared up. By nightfall a huge moon near-full lit up the sky.


Sha’Riven and Fossil took watch, and it soon became clear that they were not alone.

A massive displacer beast attacked the camp, injuring Henry and Igor before being driven off. But the group was rattled, and two of its healers were near death.

To make things worse, another beast appeared. Their innate ability to shift their position (to displace themselves, as it were) made it hard to hit them, or to truly determine their number.

But as a devotee of the God of the Hunt, Sha’Riven knew a hunting pack when she saw one. And they were the prey.

Unexpectedly, the wounds on Sir Henry began to close. Turns out he had some troll blood in his ancestry, which manifested in his very rapid healing ability. While this was all well and good, it rendered him weakened in direct sunlight. While the rest of the group envied his vigor, he always saw it as a private shame and avoided disclosing it whenever possible.

Finally it was decided that Fossil and Henry (both with the ability to self-repair) would draw the beasts into a pitfall trap, and hopefully the two could recover from the wounds afterthe threat was eliminated.

Finally a total of four displacer beasts were drawn to the trap, with two of them falling prey to the pit. Fossil and Henry took the fall with the bests, and were knocked out of the fight.

Igor and Aki stood their ground while Sha’Riven and Damien struggled to hit from range. With the blessings of her God, the remaining creatures finally fell.


With Henry and Fossil both out (and both heavy bodies), the group again had a big trudge before them. They then came across a seasoned-looking woodsman who offered them aid.

He was duly impressed with the group’s defeat of the displacer pack. The monsters had been plaguing villages throughout the valley for years. The ranger offered sanctuary at his lodge until their allies recovered.

The ranger, Denerik, was part of a cohort of rangers who patrolled the region between Denhagen and the mountains to the north. Unfortunately, he had no information about the invaders that attacked Nubereg, but once recovered, the rangers would speed the group along to Denhagen,

Once settled in the lodge and Henry and Fossil lay down to recover, the group took rest…


Time passed.

When all of the group regained consciousness, they were deep in the woods, bound hand and foot. The sun was setting, and the woozy effects of whatever drug given the four conscious Defenders of Nubereg was just wearing off.

“Welcome, honoured guests!” a voice for from darkening woods called. Denerik, the ranger. Igor immediately recognized now the holy symbol around his neck, the sign of Erythnul. God of Slaughter

“Welcome to the Sacred Hunt! O Worthy Prey, you alone passed the trial of the beasts. Tonight, by the light of the Hunters’ Moon, you shall be offered to the greatest of hunters!”

Sha’Riven, usually quite happy-go-lucky, was incensed. Erythnul was anathema to everything Solonor Thelandira preached. Cruel wanton slaughter were all sins in her eyes.

The ranger laughed at her outrage, and introduced his “cohort” to them.


Jekun, Paladin of Slaughter.


Raoth, half-orc ranger.


Rik-Uriik, ettin shaman of Erythnul.

Denerik then told then that the fast approaching sundown would be when the Sacred Hunt begins. The Hunters leave them to their fate and return to their lodge, awaiting the sunset.

Fossil and Aki are first to free themselves, they then release the rest of the group. Without weapons or armour, they are simply sitting ducks where they stand. Sha’Riven was still incensed at the blasphemous ritual, and vowed to slay all of the hunters.

Their first inspiration is to head back to the trap they set for the displacer beasts. However, once they found it, the dead beasts were already removed, and the trap itself dismantled. The sun was fully set and the night of a full moon began.

So began the Sacred Hunt.

Arrows stung the group from unseen snipers, and the well-armed Hunters soon closed in. Sha’Riven got the group to split up and not let the Hunters choose the killing grounds.

Using broken pit spikes as makeshift spears, Aki managed to draw first blood, killing the ranger Raoth.

Using his innate healing, Sir Henry drew Rik-Uriik and Jekun to him, feigning lethal wounds. The paladin of Bahamut took great pleasure slaying the mockery of a holy warrior.

Now armed with Raoth’s enchanted bow, Damien took out the ettin.

With his minions slain, Denerik took on his true form.

Revealed to be a werewolf of considerable power, Denerik repels the group’s combined assaults, and kills Ivan.

The rest of the group cannot withstand his assault, and they retreat back towards the Hunters’ Lodge.

There they were able to find a dagger made of silver, which made it possible to deliver lethal damage to the monster.

Damien took great satisfaction avenging Igor’s death. After the last Hunter was slain, the group returned to Igor’s body. He was too far gone for their rudimentary skill, so instead it was decided to honor him by turning the hunting lodge into a proper consecrated memorial.

A fitting monument to a cleric of the Death Goddess.

When they returned to the lodge, they recovered their own equipment, and came across a macabre trophy room. It seemed the Hunters had run the lodge for almost a decade, preying on hapless travelers every Hunters’ Moon.

Sha’Riven was grimly satisfied to destroy the altars to Erythnul, and the group set to lay all the physical remains to rest while searching for evidence of the victims’ identities.

After laying Igor to rest, the group sorted through the rest of the remains.

This was when among the trophied remains of one victim they discovered a very interesting journal:

This evidence showed that Nubereg had been scouted for at least a year prior to the attack. And now they had a name: Nemina.

But even more interesting was the next entry:

More names, Lemisk, and quite probably the Lady Nubereg were on the trail of another Orb, and it looks like there was an active hunt for more orbs.

The group decided to press on to Dehagen and find Lady Nubereg…

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Chapter 1 Part 2: What Lies Beneath?
This is where the troubles begin
Part 1

Nubereg

After the attack

PURPOSE ABORTED. FOCUS OF PURPOSE NO LONGER WITHIN RANGE. REFORMATTING


When the smoke cleared and the damage was assessed, the town’s would-be defenders gathered around the mysterious animated statue that came from the old ruins.

As the orb and the orb robbers made their escape, the warforged felt his single-minded drive began to wane. Self-repair enchantments kicked in, and everything went dark for a time.


SELF-REPAIR COMPLETE. REFORMATTING COMPLETE. NEW PURPOSE UNAVAILABLE. CLEANSING PROTOCOL ENABLED.

Cleansing…?

PLEASE INPUT UNIT DESIGNATION

“… this old fossil?” A voice asked.

Fossil?

DESIGNATIONFOSSIL.” PURPOSE NOT FOUND. PLEASE AWAIT NEW INSTRUCTIONS.

What “cleansing?” Who are you?

STAND BY.

CLEANSING: PROTOCOL TO SECURE HOLDING AREA IF OBJECT IN QUESTION IS REMOVED. POSSIBILITY OF INFILTRATION LIKELY. AREA TO BE PURGED. THIS WILL BEGIN IN 58 MINUTES, 33 SECONDS. PLEASE AVOID CRECHE-FORGE, DAMAGE MAY RESULT.


Having just met moments earlier, the would-be defenders of Nubereg considered what had just happened. The strangers introduced themselves.

Aki Warflame, totem warrior of the Northerlunds. Omens told him to be here on this day.

Damien Thornbrick, an honest shopkeeper trying to make an honest living (and black market smuggler who is elbow-deep in ever dirty dealing in town).

Shagrielanthalas Riven (“but please, call me Sha’Riven”), wild elf favored soul of Solonor Thelandira, Lord of the Hunt.

Igor Von Grimm (“It’s a common where I’m from.”), cleric of Wee Jas, the Lady of Death.

Sir Henry Garrickson, paladin of Bahamut who is so new, the holy oil had not get dried on his forehead.

To their surprise, the living statue started to move. The encounter with the fire elemental didn’t kill it after all.

It stood, and tried to address the five others.

“I am designated ‘Fossil.’ What will new PURPOSE be?”

“Do you understand that?” Sir henry asked. He had a dabbling of the language of Celestia, and this sounded similar.

“I do no think you understand me,” Fossil said, the blank looks confirming his theory.

He waved his hands with arcane motions, and the five defenders quickly drawing weapons on him.

WAIT! Stop!”

From the keep came running the high priest of the Bahamut (Father of Dragons), bearing wounds from the airship attack not quite healed.

He took a knee in front of Fossil.

“The prophesy! This is the Harbinger of Doom! Show mercy on the Dragon Father’s humble servants!”

Fossil completed the spell.

Perhaps they will understand now.

“Please excuse me. I do not know who the Dragon Father is.”

Sir Henry lowered his sword. He could sense no malice in the creature. And the holy father declared him some harbinger, and no good ever came from slaying a harbinger.

Fossil watched as the older human in the regalia continued to prostrate himself. Unaware of what it was called, Fossil began to feel embarrassed.

“Please do not continue bowing. I am not here to herald any End of Times.”

He stopped. What did the voice in his head say?

CLEANSING: PROTOCOL TO SECURE HOLDING AREA IF OBJECT IN QUESTION IS REMOVED> POSSIBILITY OF INFILTRATION LIKELY. AREA TO BE PURGED. THIS WILL BEGIN IN 58 MINUTES, 33 SECONDS. PLEASE AVOID CRECHE-FORGE, DAMAGE MAY RESULT.__

“Actually no, that is not entirely true. In 57 minutes this entire valley will be destroyed. I believe it is because the Orb was taken from its sanctuary.”

Fossil nodded to himself, pleased that he did not relay inaccurate information.

“56 minutes and 12 second.”


The assembled group took a moment to process what this construct had said.

“Blessed Father,” Sir Henry said to the still prostrate cleric, “er, what prophesy are you speaking of?”

The high priest of Bahamut stood up, a bit chagrined.

“You don’t understand! Since the founding Nubereg, it was said if the rest of Sir Loren Nubereg were ever disturbed, a great and terrible judgement would be passed on all the peoples of the land!”

Igor was an avid scholar of history and local legends, but he had never heard of such a warning.

“Is this written, this Prophecy? Might it be misinterpreted?” All eyes turned to him, Sir Henry trying to shake his head in warning.

Novice Von Grimm,” the priest sniffed, “this prophecy is older than this town, and has been passed down since the first flagstone of Nubereg castle was laid. It cannot be ‘misinterpreted’.”

“I beg your pardon,” Sha’Riven piped in, “but my people have been in this valley before the first humans cut stone. If there was any foretold doom here, I’m sure our Elders would have told me.”

What she did not say (or even realized) was that the wood elf elders long ago learned to not bother telling her anything not involving more than two syllables.

“Can you show us this prophecy?” Damien asked. The paladin scowled at the smarmy shopkeeper. Bahamut knew he was always up to some not-quite-evil deed, and he was making a mockery of a grave situation.

“A prophecy is not simply written on a piece of vellum and nailed to a wall, merchant. It is kept safe from prying eyes.”

Fossil interrupted.

“Fifty-five minutes.”


The high priest relented, and took the collected group to the temple of Bahamut. Locked an hidden from the laity’s eyes was a secret chamber. One wall had the remains of a stained glass window, and on the ceiling was the faded remains of a vast mural.

The glass depicted a ten scenes, with only six fully intact:

  • A red orb sitting on a frozen field
    A silver orb within a half-opened cask
    A green orb held in the palm of a blue-skinned giant
    A bronze orb on a stone dais surrounded by a feathered serpent
    A gold orb in the hand of an elf lord
    And a white orb cradled by a pious knight.

The mural is more difficult to decipher: the white orb sat on a throne, surrounded by statues that looked like the thing that called itself Fossil.

Another quadrant of the mural saw the throne empty, and the statues drawing blades in a threatening manner.

Finally, a depiction of fire and general suffering was shown. vague, but it could possibly mean moving the orb could result in fiery destruction.

“Thirty-nine minutes,” Fossil said, helpfully.

“Okay, so then if what Fossil says is true, and your painting of DOOM suggests is right, we’re all going to die,” Damien said glumly.

“Well not necessarily all of us,” Sha’Riven offered, “maybe just those of us that are close to the ruins.”

“Well, can it be shut down?” Igor asked, wondering why no one else thought to.

Fossil thought for a moment. If the CLEANSING was a provision created to react to this artifact being moved, then perhaps there was a way to stop, or at least delay the CLEANSING.

He shared this theory with the others.

“I’m not the ‘wait to die’ sort,” Damien says, nervously thumbing his icy dagger, “so, Magic Man, how do we get in there and turn it off?”

“I am not a man, I am Warforged,” Fossil corrected.

Damien shrugged, waiting for more elaboration.

“As for ‘shutting down’ the CLEANSING, I do not know. I suppose we could follow the path which the invaders took, and try not to let the inner defenses kill us.”

Damien was eager to shut down whatever ancient gift of spite lay waiting, Sir Henry was not about to allow such a shifty individual to go in alone, and Fossil was curious to see if any more like him were still intact.

Sha’Riven, Igor and Aki all felt obliged to join them, both at the high priest’s urging, and by the sudden camaraderie that sharing a life-or-death battle brings in people.

Without a moment to lose, the all quickly headed to the ruins.

“Twenty-one minutes.”

“You don’t need to keep telling us this, by the way,” Igor tells the warforged.

The first death traps were already sprung by the armoured invaders, and the site of the ripped, crushed, and mangled bodies encouraged caution among the group. Aki’s ability to blink from one place to another, and Damien’s knack for spotting traps help speed their descent into the complex.

Finally, they reached the throne depicted in the mural. And as shown, it sat empty.

Behind the throne, an ancient clockwork mechanism seemed to be counting down to something. And there was only a short amount of time remaining.

Fourteen minutes, Fossil thought. I noticed reciting the countdown upset his new associated, so he decided to keep this information to himself.

Damien assessed the machinery, and it seemed that whatever it was, it could be be stopped. But before he could do anything, another defensive measure was activated…

Standing twice the size of the tallest of the group, four giant warforged materialized from the countdown mechanism, and attempted to crush the small organism trying to deactive the CLEANSING.

Aki, Henry, Sha’Riven and Igor fought to hold the giant machine men off, while Fossil and Damien worked to figure out how the ancient doomsday clock could be dismantled.

Being not evil, they prove a particular challenge to Sir Henry. While he knew it was vital to protect the people of Nubereg, he feared it was an act of sacrilege to fight these defenders.

Aki had no such compunction, but he was grateful for the healing magic of Sha’Riven, as he was being pummeled greatly.

Finally the mechanism was destroyed, and the giant warfored guardians exploded in a massive energy surge…

…all of which was absorbed by Fossil, causing him to suffer a massive overload.

When the smoke cleared, the group carried the fallen defender back to the temple of Bahamut.


Within the mind of Fossil, strange images coalesced

- Ten Orbs: Red, Blue, White, Black, Green, Silver, Bronze, Gold, Brass and Copper,
- A field of bones beset by storms: some of the bones of huge creature do not rest lightly,
- A Winged man on a ziggurat, screaming at a monstrous being with five heads,
- A great fortress in the sky, shining with holy light,

while a trilling flute played an infectious melody…

“…seems to heal it, but not as effectively as it might you or I…”

Voices called Fossil.

NO PURPOSE FOUND. PLEASE STAND BY. YOU ARE FREE TO MOVE ABOUT FREELY PENDING FURTHER PURPOSE.

And he opened his eyes.


The group laid the creature that called itself Fossil among the others wounded and killed in the temple of Bahamut. Igor, Sha’Riven and Sir Henry all expended all the healing magic they could for those in need.

Finally Sha’Riven tried to heal Fossil, from whatever it was that ailed “him”.

Humans are always so caught up in their gender pronouns, she thought idly.

“Do you think that will work, Elf Shaman?” the Norlunder named Aki asked her. “I had thought the power of the Gods only worked on those of flesh and blood?”

She shrugged. Something had happened when she cast the spell on Fossil.

“The Blessings of Solonor Thelandira seems to heal it, but not as effectively as it might you or I,” she tell him. “And I told you my name is Sha’ Riven. Shamanism is something for lizardfolk.”

Aki had no idea what a “lizard folk” was, but took her rebuke stoically. Stoicism being second only to anger as the most common mood of those from the Northerlunds.

The Fossil opened his eyes.

“The orb! And walking bones! And where is the winged one shouting?”

The five defenders surrounded the warforged. After calming Fossil somewhat, they all set about to helping put out the remaining fires, help those they could, and bury those they could not.


Two days passed. The last of the dead were buried, and rebuilding slowly began. Aki, Igor, Sha’Riven, Sir Henry, Damien and Fossil were brought to an audience with Lord Rupert Nubereg and the surviving priests of Fharlanghn, Pelor and Bahamut.

The attack on the town and theft of the artifact might have deeper repercussions. The town leaders ask the group to seek out Lord Nubereg’s sister, who has an estate in the city of Denhagen. Comptess Nubereg could possibly help determine what was taken, and why. Due to the damage and potential for another attack, Lord Nubereg and the churches cannot spare any other manpower.

The journey on foot would be about three days, taking the Old Road through the Dïrkwald. For their own reasons, each member of the group agrees to take the journey, be it duty, vengeance, curiosity, PURPOSE, Omens, or nothing better to do.

And after some time spent to outfit themselves and collect whatever evidence of the attack and the artifact taken they can, they set out on the Old Road toward Denhagen.

Part 2

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Chapter 1: Look Out Below
Part 1: A brazen attack. A stunning theft. A countdown to doom.
Prelude

Nubereg

They came at dawn. A machine that soared through the air, coming in fast with the rising sun obscuring its approach.


An acolyte of Pelor, the Rising Sun, saw them first as she gave morning thanks to her God. Having never seen such a sight, she reported to the Knight-on-Watch: the paladin Garrickson.


Aki Warflame was growing restless. Prophecy was a fickle thing, but the barbarian was fated to come to this Nubereg and meet his destiny, so he waited…

This morning felt different to him, and when he chanced to see one of the Sun shamans peer into the dawn light, he followed her gaze.

Something was coming.


Shagrielanthalas Riven (Sha’Riven to people with less patience) counted her arrows absently while she enjoyed the sunrise on her face.

The rest of her clan had already made the seasonal migration westward, but she elected to remain to clear away the summer camp. She would not admit it to her more aloof cousins and sister, but she took any excuse to visit the human town. She always enjoyed watching the young folk race through their lives as though each day was their last.

She saw the flying machine almost immediately, and marveled at the ingenuity.

Are they jumping out of the contraption? I hope they have some sort of enchantments…


Damien saw the armored invaders before they saw him, and shadowed the nearest group’s movements, daggers ready.


AWAKEN

“His” eyes opened. The summon could not be ignored. It had been… decades? Centuries? But there could only be one reason they had been roused after all this time: the orb was in danger.

Some of “his” compatriots had already begun to move, but not all. Some has lost all the enchantments that enabled them to be, leaving nothing but inert figures of metal and wood. Others had lost their PURPOSE, and milled about confused.

“He” could not remember everything… a name? A place? But the PURPOSE remained. Protect the orb.

PROTECT

On legs struggling to remember steps, the Warforged emerged from “his” slumber.


In the temple of Pelor, Igor, devotee of the Goddess of Death and the high priest of the Sun God were enjoying some thought-provoking debate on the nature of death and resurrection. However, their discussion was cut short with a peal of warning bells ringing from the temple/keep north of town.

“We must cut our discussion short, Brother,” the cleric tells Igor. "The bell summons us to action! Will you join us?’

The acolytes and junior priest already don their armour and heft maces, ready to meet whatever threatens Nubereg.


Aki Warflame, the Northerlund barbarian saw several armoured men falling from the flying beast, then noticed that they are falling slowly enough where the impact will not injure them.

It seemed his doom had found him. Aki was eager to face it, so he drew his axe and called forth the essentia of the Blink Dog totem.

Sir Henry Garrickson looked to where the acolyte pointed and saw the falling soldiers. Knowing no good would come from this, he drew his blade and moved to engage them.


Within a darkened ruin, the awakened warforged tries to communicate with others that have also answered the Purpose. One begins to babble in an unknown tongue, while two others attack each other. The two remaining functioning constructs address the one who will become known as Fossil.

“We are awakened. Our Purpose is to defend the Orb. The Orb is threatened! We must take action!”

Stepping out from the sconces where they stood, the magical guardians prepared for battle.


As the armoured men descended, Sha’Riven sighed with relief as their fall was light and slow. As they dropped, the elf notices too four red-robed humans flying alongside the soldiers.

She snapped out of her musings when she saw the robed humans brandishing wands that tossed orbs of fire at the town.

The monsters! These are innocent humans!

She nocked her bow, praying to the Lord of the Hunt to guide her aim.


In the temple of Pelor, Igor and the High Priest were enjoying some thought-provoking debate on the nature of death and resurrection. However, their discussion was cut short with a peal of warning bells ringing from the temple/keep north of town.

“We must cut our discussion short, Brother,” the cleric said. "The bell summons us to action! Will you join us?’

The acolytes and junior priest doned their armour and hefted maces, ready to meet whatever threatened Nubereg.


Soldiers in shining white armour landed and began to attack anything that moved. The town guards answered the attack, but the simple woodsmen were not a match for the professional soldiers.

One guard manages a lucky shot (his aim blessed by the prayer of Sha’Riven) that pierced the plate of a soldier, but he was then incinerated by one of the flying spellcasters.

Sha’Riven shot futilely at the wizards, then moved quickly to avoid their fiery retaliation. Seeing that the wizards were immune to her arrows, she focused her bow on the grounded soldiers.

Damien kept to the blind spot of the descending attackers. He noticed above four mages tossing small orbs of fire at the town’s houses. The daggers he wielded would be useless against the heavy plate of the attackers, so he decided to not be a hero.

Another town guard fired an arrow at a red-robed flying spellcaster, but it bounced away as though deflected by a magical force. A moment later the same guard was set alight another orb of flames. More militiamen were being slaughtered the attackers.

Damien skirted the melee and headed north, shadowing a group of the soldiers. Overhead the four wizards seemed to be clearing a path, not firing at random.


With blessing and divine favour granted, the faithful of Pelor and Igor, their death cleric guest, sallied forth from the temple and repelled the attacking soldiers, but not before the high priest was struck down. Igor broke off pursuit of the soldiers to save the priest’s life.

From the north of town, Sir Henry Garrickson rode forth to rally the acolytes and drive back the soldiers. Henry’s horse however was killed under him by the airborne wizards.

Sha’Riven returned fire, her aim true. While the enchantments against arrows prevented any damage to the wizards, her real purpose was to draw their magical attacks. Praying to the Lord of the Hunt, she was warded against the brunt of the magical fire.

Damien manages to remain unseen in the chaos.

Aki roared a challenge at the nearest soldier, but the warrior took a wound from a wicked blade; his skins a poor match to the swords of the attackers.


At the keep north of the town, Lord Nubereg stood with his the faithful of Bahamut, awaiting the assault from the invaders. It was not long coming, and the attackers quickly breached the gates, cutting down footmen with impunity as they advanced.


Damien continued to the shadow the force that separated from the main assault group. As he’d expected, the attacks were a diversion. Whatever the airship was here for, it was in the temple ruins outside of town. He had “explored” the ruins a couple times himself, but the honour guard of paladins discouraged him from digging deeper.

The attackers advanced upon the abandoned temple and quickly dispatched the honour guard paladin. To keep attention away from the temple ruins, the flying wizards focused the attacks now on the Nubereg keep.

The warforged had one Purpose – to defend that what lay in the temple. Alas, countless years had passed, and all too few remained. Collapsed pillars, expired enchantments, and tomb robbers had depleted the original number. Fossil and the other ancient guardians were quickly repulsed, Fossil the only one remaining intact.

But unfortunately for the marauding force, the waforged were not the only guardians, just as their commander had warned…

As “he” flickered in and out of consciousness, the sounds of unlucky invaders meeting magical traps echoes through the chambers of the tomb…


“Elf Woman!”

Sha’Riven noticed a human wearing animal skins and glowing with some sort of primal aura. He was not among the attacker, though he bled from a wound. She healed his wound with divine power as he addressed her.

Healing magic sealed the gash in Aki Warflame’s side. He realized the elf woman must be a shaman of some sort. She was the enemy of his enemy, the Red Men of his Vision. Whoever she was, he had an idea.

“You can shoot, yes? Please draw attention of the flying red men!”

Sounding as good a plan as any she had, Sha’Riven again shot arrows at the shielded mages.

This time, however, as one of them lined up a shot of his wand, the wild man blinked out of existence, and reappeared above the flying wizard. Though his magical spell deflected arrows, it was no defense against a large steel axe.


With the high priest stabilized, Brother Igor returned to the melee, and found a knight of Bahamut pinned under his dead horse. He could not move the horse, so he instead used the power of his Goddess to make t he knight grow to twice his size.

Sir Henry could easily move the horse off himself, and did so. After a brief thanks to Igor, the two saw a group of invaders converging upon the wood elf archer.

Sha’Riven was quickly being flanked, so she shouldered her bow and brandished her spear to face the attackers.

Aki “rode” the dead wizard downward as the flying enchantment faded, then blinked to the elf’s side.


Damien reached the ruins, and watched as the odd barbarian took down a flying wizard. An idea formed in his mind. He quickly clamoured up the side of the ruins’ facade and waited.

His patience was quickly rewarded, as one of the remaining wizards flew nearby.

This confirmed to him that the ruins were the real target. He leaped at the wizard, and grabbed hold.

the wizard tried to unwrap himself from Damien’s grip, but he held on tight. Both slowly dove down, the flying spell not strong enough to carry them both. The wizard tried to cast a spell on his attacker, but Damien’s grip kept him pinned.


Within the temple ruin, the remaining warforged tried to rouse the fallen guardians. Alas they were too damaged to continue. However as they died, the remaining animating magic within them flowed into the last warforged.

Slowly the essence of the destroyed warforged repaired “him,” as more shrieks and screams echoed from the catacombs…


At Nubereg Keep, the attackers were be repulsed by the better-trained and equipped holy knights of the Platinum Dragon. The two unfettered wizards withdrew from the town and flew north to assist the besiegers.


Igor and Sir Henry converged with Aki and Sha’Riven, and the four stood their ground against the armoured attackers, neither side gaining any advantage.

In the air over the temple, Damien and the wizard struggled still.


Within the ruin, the warforged drew the remaining magical infusions that gave life to “his” fellow guardians. it seemed to leap towards the warforged, determined to complete the Purpose.

PURPOSE. DEFEND.

The command echoed in “his” mind.

Suddenly, from deep below, the was a cry of triumph.


Suddenly, just as they arrived, the attackers withdrew. Each imbibed a small vial and rose upward to the waiting airship.

In the town, the four defenders watched as the invaders flew upward, taking time to grab allies that fell in the battle.

Sha’Riven quickly re-drew her bow and shot a vial from one attacker’s hand before it could be drunk.

The two wizards attacking the keep flew to meet Damien and the trapped wizard. Seeing this as a good time to withdraw, Damien relinquishes his hold and dashes away from the spellcasters.

Diving among the ruins, he barely avoids being immolated by the magical attacks. The wizards withdraw towards the airship.


The warforged watched helplessly as the Purpose was removed from the temple. The magic had not repair “his” legs.

Two attacker had survived whatever defenses remained. The rushed out of the temple gripping their prize.

Desperately the warforged tried to pursue, but the animated body could not go any further.


Damien was out of one fire and suddenly cast into another. After avoiding the wizards’ fiery retribution, he now faced two heavily-armed and amoured soldiers.

But heavy armour makes for a slow pursuit, so Damien wisely headed back out of the temple, fast as he could.

Damien hustled out of the ruin, hopping over the dead honour guard as he went.

Sorry mate, better you than me, he thought as he rushed forth.


The last members of the raiding party returned to the airship.

Marshal Nemina! We have succeeded!”

The Commander was pleased. With the Orb, the White would rise in the Emperor’s esteem. Let Linin and Roltus engage in their intrigues. Results would speak louder than secret dealings.

“Set course for Xix. Drop some crystals to slow pursuit!”

The airship turned south, following the trade road that led them to Nubereg.


Aki was the first to see them, and he pointed the small rocks tossed of the flying machine.

“Elf Shaman! The enemy continues mischief”

Sha’Riven presumed the Totemist meant her. From the airship were being tossed small rocks.

As each rock impacted, they coalesced into living elements. Humanoid fire, rock, wind, and water rose and attacked the would-be defenders.


Damien saw the rocks turn into elemental monsters and attack a small group near the temple of Pelor.

There had been more than enough excitement for one day, so all he wanted to do was go back to his shop and barricade it shut, but…

No…

A course of expletives rolls over Damien’s tongue. His shop, on fire. All of his wonderful clandestine merchandise… gone. And he stilled owed the suppliers in Denhagen the down-payment…

Blades out, Damien charged the nearest creature, a living pillar of water.

His attacks did not seem to affect the water elemental, and it lashed at him with crashing liquid fists.


Igor, Sha’Riven, and Henry engaged the earth and fire elementals, faring little better.

Meanwhile Aki was getting buffeted by the air creature.

Suddenly, the earth and air monsters were struck and destroyed by orbs of fire.

A newcomer, a walking statue of wood and shining silver grasped the wand dropped by the dead wizard.

The flame wand destroyed the earth and air elemetals. The water elemental, possessing some sense of self-preservation, disengaged from Damien and tried to dive into the town well. By instinct alone Damien tossed a dagger after it, and it connected with something vital in the creature. The dagger wedged into the well stones, and the elemental’s remains poured slowly down the side.

Remaining was the being of living flame. It charged the warforged and knocked “him” down and out.

Retrieving his dagger, Damien noticed it had somehow taken on a bluish hue and felt slightly cold to the touch.

Willing to try anything, Damien flung the dagger at where the fire monster’s heart would be, and whatever had changed the dagger now made it deadly to the elemental.

Igor prayed to bring water forth and extinguish the flames on their would-be rescuer. Aki set about to affirm any remaining invaders were dead. Sha’Riven setabout to help the wounded, while Henry headed to the keep to convene with the Lord Nubereg.

Damien considered his options. He lost his stock, and he now was in hock for a few thousand gold. To top it all off, he lost his shop.

After the dust settled and fires expired, the five defenders gathered around the remains of the strange walking statue.

“Who’s this Fossil?” Damien asked…

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Prelude
A Brief Introduction

airship.jpg

The soldiers stood on the deck of the airship.

“Listen up!” the Commander’s voiced boomed over the wind and thrum of engines, “our goal is just past the lake. We fly low and with the sun so we will not been seen until it is too late!”

The Commander paced the deck as the airship passed over the lake.

“Such an artifact may have untold guardians. You must get it and get out immediately! Let nothing stand in your way! Once we have achieved our goal, we withdraw at once! If you tarry, you WILL be left behind!”

The Commander looked at each assembled soldier in turn, making sure the objective was clear. This was no mission of suppression. No wholesale massacre. In and out.

The town came within sight. The airship dipped forward.

FOR THE EMPEROR!” the Commander shouted.

FOR THENES!” came the reply.

And then they all dove off the airship to the waiting town below…

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Nubereg
A nothing town in the middle of nowhere.


Nubereg was once a bustling town along the ancient Old Road, but trade along the road declined, and over the centuries so did Nubereg.

Now the town lives on meagre farming on the lowlands, and fishing in the nearby Lake Lac Melim. Its chief trade is a salt mine which is exported through the nearby port of Denhagen.

Aside from the keep of the Lord Nubereg, the only structure of note is a tomb to a hero long forgotten to time.

According to local legend, the tomb houses one of the Heroes who vanquished the Mad King Thenacus many centuries prior. Rumour has it the current lord is a descendant of the Great Hero.

The town has three temples, dedicated to Bahamut, and a small retinue of His paladins who defend the region, Pelor, whose healer attend to the sick and provide spiritual comfort to the common folk and Fharlanghn, who is revered by merchants and travelers. The temples also serve as a watch house/jail, a hospital, and a bank of commerce respectively.

The town watch runs independently from the church, though either the Bahamut church or Lord Nubereg judge court proceedings. Smuggling of controlled substances from Denhagen is the main source of organized crime.
The population is predominantly human, with a small extended wild elf family dwelling in the Dïrkwald forest. Gnome labourers have recently migrated here from Thenes to work in the salt mines. Other races are not significantly represented, but individuals come and go.

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