Tellurian Tales (vol 1c): Walking the Path of the Dead

27 Oct

Only a day on from the hut, after passing the trade caravan battleground and crossing over into hobgoblin territory, the party is intercepted by an Alvorin patrol . The Alvorin ride targaks. A targak looks like a cross between a tall, hairy yak and a giant lizard, with claws. After cautious introductions, much is learned by both sides. The Alvorin explain that they recovered the bodies of their comrades that lay slain among Allayn's trade caravan. This slaughter appeared to be the second attack on their people by men bearing the mark of Dhunraven. However when informed that both Allayn and the Alvorins may have been attacked by a third force, they grudgingly agree that certain signs on the battlefield would lend credence to this.

However, they will listen to no more human lies. Yet, the Alvorin note, based on their introductions, each of our heroes has no clan or tie, not even to Dhunraven. Even the dwarf has lost his delve. If the adventurers would speak truly to the People, they must become part of the tribe. To do so, they must walk the Khun Ut Kahli--the Path of the Dead--and be judged worthy by the Oracle. If found honorable, the adventurers will become part of the tribe and will be listened to as brothers. If found dishonorable, they will die.

Though it is a tough call, the promise of some sort of Oracle shedding light on all this sounds useful. The only other apparent alternative is to turn back, empty-handed. The four adventurers accept the Alvorin's conditions and swear an oath of traveling brotherhood. They each mount up behind an Alvorin on a targak, with the two ponies led along behind.

Learn more about Orcs and their nine tribes.

That night, another snowstorm hits. Huddled in low tents, the adventurers find the Alvorin to be friendly and hospitable, though reserved. While conversing, they learn that the tall, regal orcs they have glimpsed in this region are Uruk-Hai of the supposedly-lost tribe of Uskander. For the most part, they keep to themselves and are less vindictive than their Ulann orc cousins.

28 Oct

The snowstorm continues through the morning. The patrol stays in camp, waiting out "Oriff's winter fury". In the afternoon, the snow stops, though dark grey clouds still fill the sky. A second night passes without incident.

01 Nov

The next day, the patrol reaches the Path of the Dead, which turns out to be a long tunnel system, with the opening a short way up a cliff. The patrol makes camp to wait for the verdict. Our heroes haul their way up the cliff, and head into the cave.

The cave opens into an icy cavern, which holds the bodies of honored Alvorin, slowly being covered by limestone. Beyond that, the tunnel descends into a charnel pit, apparently holding all the dishonored bodies. A few of these bodies are rather active, but the adventurers quickly dispatch the zombies. Near the back of the pit, a crawl hole leads to a chimney filled with quite large spiders, which bite Invellios a few times. Once dignity is regained after the spider ambush, the adventures find that this chimney is a dead end, though there are a few bodies worth plundering cocooned by the spiders.

Backtracking, the party finds another, smaller tunnel near the entrance. This leads to a very large cavern, containing the very old remains of some very large (40 feet) snakey, centipedey thing. It also turns out to contain many stirges--a cross between a very large bat and a mosquito. This proves to be quite disturbing, as the stirges fly down and attach themselves and start sucking blood. Some quick spells on the part of Sarah and Luceo, some screaming on Rorik's part as he tries to beat two of these things off at once, and some more uncanny arrow work by Invellios see the party through.

Though a couple of the adventures are pale and peakish from blood drain, they decide to press on. In the back of the cavern, a small crawl space leads to a rope bridge across a gorge. The sound of running water can be heard below in the darkness. The cautious bridge crossing is going well until the whole cave suddenly goes dark, and largish octopus-like creatures (darkmantles) drop down from the ceiling. One wraps around Invellios's head and begins to strangle him as he lies on the wooden slats of the bridge. As Luceo thrashes around for him in the darkness, a second darkmantle begins battling the first for its prey. Though one of the bloody darkmantles escapes, two more are hacked to pieces by Rorik's handaxe. Luckily, no one falls off the bridge during the scuffle.

Assuming that there must surely not be much further to go, the party finishes crossing the bridge. The next cavern has a treacherous, collapsing floor, which they cross without mishap. On the far side is a strange, unopenable door. A riddle floats across the door face in magically shifting script:

I am the beginning of every end
and the end of every life.

After Luceo speaks the answer to the riddle, lighted cracks appear around the outline of the door, and it grinds open. Stepping through, the adventurers find themselves in a place of warmth and calm, much like the inside of a small hut in the dead of winter, with a fire going in the fireplace. The Oracle appears to be a very old, blind Alvorin sitting by the fire; however, she gives off a sense of power. She welcomes the adventurers to the tribe, and explains she has sent a vision to those who await their return. As new members, each adventurer has the chance to ask a single question of their fate.

Sarah asks about Allayn. "He is alive, and being held by dark forces near the summit of Shaman's Crown. Much will be revealed by his rescue."

Luceo blurts out "Where may I find the First of the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan?" The Oracle answers, "In Nuchal's library, beneath the City of the Dead, at the base of a pylon of the Citadel that once spanned the world."

Rorik asks of the fate of Mor Dunehaim, his home. The Oracle explains, "Mor Dunehaim will never again be your home." Rorik weeps at this news. "However," the Oracle continues, "if you are determined, Dunehaim may stand again. You must return and recover the Hammer of Dunehaim Forge. With it, you must craft the Soul of Dunehaim. In your heart, you will know what to do."

Invellios hangs back, but finally asks where he may find the peace for himself in the world. "Not where, but when. When you stand for the family you never had, you will find the peace you seek."

"Now, you must go."

Our heroes trundle back out of the "hut", back into the cold depths of the Path of the Dead. Clambering back out, Sarah takes a spill into one of the shafts in the cavern of the unstable floor, landing in a deep, frigid pool. She loses her backpack trying to stay afloat before Rorik can toss in a line and haul her out. Hurrying back, they meet no more trouble.

They are welcomed enthusiastically by the waiting Alvorin patrol. Sarah dries out by the fire, and there is much celebrating into the night. The party turns over the treasures they gathered along the Path, but the Alvorin allow them to keep all but the strange, black-bladed weapons they found.

As the party sips from small cups of a thick, sweet liquor, the Alvorin explain that the patrol will journey tomorrow to the main camp. There, they will discuss the political matters the party came for, and the adventurers will be officially indoctrinated into the tribe. Also, the matter of Allayn becomes more pressing now that party know he is still alive, but held in darkness.

Most of this cycle's events, characters, and region comes from Keith Francis Strohm's The Dead Of Winter: Survival Of The Fittest adventure scenario.

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