Session 1: Orc Troubles!
Before the Adventure…
The Campaign Setting is the world of Greyhawk about CY 587 following the essential points on the line of history of Greyhawk Wars and From the Ashes. Iuz had roused the barbarians, under the guise of Vatun, the god of the North, to plunder the Duchy of Tenh. This created turmoil in the East, but Iuz's control of the barbarian alliance broke after he insisted on a traditional friend and trading partner of the barbarians. However, by this time, Iuz had marshaled his forces in the West and was assaulting Furyondy in various ways. These attacks had been met with some preparation by King Belvor IV of Furyondy. Eventually, they fought to a stalemate. Iuz had also looked for support from giants and evil humanoids from the Hellfurnaces and from the Baklunish West. Armies from these lands descended upon Geoff, Sterich, and Yeomanry causing Geoff and Sterich to be overrun.
As Iuz's machinations unfolded, the Overking Ivid V of Aerdy began his descent into total madness. As Iuz attacked Furyondy, Ivid saw an opportunity to reclaim Nyrond and Almor for the Great Empire of the Aerdy. Ever since his sires assassinated all other claimants to ascend to the throne, the Overking on the Malachite Throne had been known as "fiend-seeing". He began to eliminate his own lords and even had several of them brought back as sentient undead servants. Others came back as undead but retained their independence. Ivid himself was assasinated, but the priests of Hextor brought him back as well as an undead. The Great Kingdom of Aerdy is in shambles, with the northern and southern provinces breaking off to form their own domains. Rauxes and the surrounding area is destroyed by magic and the Overking and several undead rules continue to haunt the former heart of the Great Kingdom.
Meanwhile, the Scarlet Brotherhood conducted a series of crippling, deft precision strikes to weaken authority in other lands and prevent the forces of good from mounting effective resistance in many areas. This chaos allowed them to pick off several small states and lands that were left weakened or were totally unprepared and caught off guard, due to the guile of the Scarlet Brotherhood. For many years, their counselors, spies, and assassins had infiltrated the bureaucracy of lands, seeking to influence the direction of foreign nations. At last the time had come for them to reveal themselves and with sweeping motions, they gained control of several lands in the South.
Finally, a half-orc of unusual talent and charisma, called Turrosh Mak, had organized tribes of orcs and other evil humanoids in the lands of Pomarj. After organizing and gathering these forces, Turrosh had a sizeable military and was able to overrun parts of the Ulek states. At the same time, he drove his forces north and conquered towns along the wild coast. Eventually, the resistance in Ulek stiffened, but he progressed all the way to Safeton on the Wild Coast.
The town of Safeton had submitted to Greyhawk law in exchange for protections, and Turin Deathstalker conscripted forces and prepared defenses immediately. Furthermore, the slaves of Safeton were freed, under Greyhawk laws, and the price of their freedom was to assist in the formation of defenses. Thus, the city received support from outside and its defenses were built up quickly. Many refugees also assisted, and Turin was able to stem the tide of the Pomarj tribes.
It has been seven years since Turin stopped the advance of the Pomarj on the Wild Coast. The lands around here have had an uneasy stalemate, occasional skirmishes but nothing constituting committed warfare. Turrosh seems to have his hands full with his current conquests, and Greyhawk is not keen on spending more blood to reconquer foreign lands.
As slaves were freed and refugees fled the Wild Coast, heading north, some tried to head northwest, trying to get around the conflicts in the Ulek states. Among these was a Keolandish man named Toradon, who had been a slave and was seeking to return to his homeland, and with him were several youth he had been charged with guarding. These newly freed souls had to stop in a small village called Foronis, because Toradon fell ill. Toradon died in a week, and the youths he had been protecting found a new guardian in the town elder, Gavaris, who, having lost his own wife and son in the havoc of the times, wanted to be able to nurse his own wounds by caring for others.
After almost six years of living in Foronis, the two youths Gavaris took under his wing have received training and tutoring and have performed minor tasks for the village. Gavaris tells them that the time is coming when they must find their own way elsewhere, because they are ready to go on their own and their presence could create conflict with his nephew, who is in line to govern as the town elder. Gavaris says that he has a few more favors to ask, before he sends them on their journey away. After that, they will always be welcome to visit, but they should not settle in Foronis.
The Journey Begins
The Great Tree of Foronis
The two youth are Valith Faerun, an elf obsessed with practicing magic and learning, and Ruckus Longstride, a human who has been put to use hunting and assisting in patrols in the land. They go about their business that afternoon, as Gavaris prepares a package for them to deliver to Peter the Hermit. Perhaps with a hint of nostalgia, Ruckus decides to climb the Great Tree of Foronis, a remarkable old tree found at the center of the village. The trunk is 25 feet around and the tree itself goes up over 80 feet high. After climbing about 30 feet up, Ruckus tosses his rope over a huge branch above him and the grappling hook catches snugly. However, as he goes to climb up, the branch suddenly detaches and falls right past him, breaking and snapping on the ground below. As he climbs up, he sees a black, inky liquid oozing from the tree. He calls for Valith, who comes to inspect the branch that fell. Valith understand that this tree must either be a descendant of an old tree species or an extremely long-lived tree from a time when this area was occupied by Grey Elves (many centuries ago). It quickly becomes clear that there is a problem with the tree, though this tree is the main source of civic pride for the village. In fact, this problem pertains to the errand Gavaris had for the party, to go to Peter the Hermit and see if somehow contact could be made with Zedek Half-moon, a druid who has previously visited Foronis (but not frequently). They gather some of the residue from the branch and take the journey over to Peter's shack.
Afternoon Chat with a Hermit
Valith and Ruckus make it Peter's shack after about 4 hours of careful travel. Peter vaguely remembers them from previous trips where they had accompanied Gavaris. The youths had never actually gone inside the shack, and they see Peter outside tending to his herb garden. It turns out the hermit is something of an herbalist as well as a being a man keenly interested in pondering life. Somehow he had acquired a reasonably interesting library on subjects ranging from alchemical disputations to extra-planar cosmologies. After consulting with him about the tree and about the availability of Zedek Half-moon, Valith and Ruckus learn that they must prepare a large amount of tree "medicine" to stave off the disease using eckert mushrooms and pimlock herbs. The eckert mushrooms grow in damp, dark areas and have a red top with blue on the center of the top, and the pimlock herbs grow in the woods and have a streak of bright green running through the center of their branches. The herbalist agrees to make the medicine in exchange for a few extra specimens of eckert mushrooms and pimlock herbs. The youths agree to find the ingredients, but it is fast approaching dark. After searching unsuccessfully for pimlock herbs for about an hour, the party returns to Peter's shack before dark.
Peter chats with the party about various subjects, including resurrection. The hermit's theory is that the goddess of Fate, Istus, is undermined by resurrection, so although it is possible to resurrect people using resurrection magic, there is undoubtedly a point after which resurrection becomes virtually impossible for mortals. Valith queries about Peter's opinion of demons and devils—if it is impossible for mortals to be resurrected infinitely, would it be possible for demons and devils to be slain enough times that they could not be restored? Peter is unsure and declares that only a great expert in planar theory might know, but he says that his opinion is that the prime material plane is a different kind of essence from other planes, such as, for example, the plane of elemental fire. Accordingly, Istus may have a different perspective on creatures native to those planes. While not entirely satisfied with his answer, Peter says that is his best guess.
Ruckus inquires about the druids. He says he has heard they have the ability to befriend animals and speak to them. Peter confirms this and states that they have even more powerful abilities, including the power to shift into animal form. This ability derives from a power unlike but yet like deities. It is a natural life energy they have somehow learned to interact with and communicate with. Valith mentions he has heard they have their own language, and Peter counters he has not heard of that. Valith says that they refuse to teach anyone else this language. Peter only suggests it is possible this language can only be known and understood in communion with the life-spirit that permeates the natural world and empowers the druids; thus, to teach it would be betrayal and instant "ex-communication" literally and linguistically.
Back on the Trail
The party wakes the next morning, and after hearing from the hermit that there is cave northwest of here that may possess the eckert mushrooms, the tandem departs eager to acquire the ingredients. After journeying northwest they find some mushrooms near the mouth of a cave, but the elf-vision of Valith spots a mangled orc lying in the darkness of the cave below. After acquiring some mushrooms, the party explores the cave. At times they light a torch, and at other times, the infrared vision of the elf is the only light (at those times, Ruckus is led by a rope that Valith uses to lead him).
The orc has a large claw mark and chest has been crushed. Valith finds some coins and a heavy mace on him. Lighting a torch, Ruckus observes signs of struggle leading down and to the left. To the right is an open space with some more mushrooms. It appears a bear-like creature spent time here. Valith searches for feathers but does not detect any signs of an owlbear. Moving down the corridor where the signs of the combat led, they observe a streak of blood on the wall. Then Valith detects another orc corpse, this one near the bottom of the tunnel. The very bottom of the tunnel leads to another open space, with an area of stalagmites to the left. On the opposite side of the room sit two orcs facing a small campfire. The corpse of the bear is nearby, and the smell of cooked meat wafts through the air.
After Ruckus indicates he sees something using a quick tug on the rope, the adventurers are faced with a difficult choice. They have never faced mortal combat, but Ruckus detests orcs and Valith, an elf, has a natural disliking of them. It seems there is no better time to strike than while their backs are turned and absorbed in eating meat. However, the young mage believes he can use magic to overcome the orcs, so he moves forward and begins to cast the sleep spell. One of the orcs stands up as the sound of chanting echoes through the chamber. Ruckus darts behind the stalagmites. The spell goes off next, but, amazingly, both orcs shrug off its effects! Then Ruckus tries to divert the attention of the orcs by shooting an arrow against the wall. After a ping and a slip of some stones, the second orc investigates the sound. The other orc charges at Valith, and the young elf wizard is cut practically into two by the slice of a jagged falchion. Bleeding profusely, nothing is heard besides the thud of a body hitting the ground and the hoarse laughter of an orc.
At this point, Valith is delusional and dying. As his ghost seems about to depart, instead the natural enegies of the eckert mushrooms preserve him. His eyes see a large bear about 30 feet in front of him, but it seems as if the bear is like a barrier that prevents him from reaching death. What is more, the bear seems to be a druid talking to him, one moment, and then a knight known as Sir Barington. His delirious visions pass away from him as consciousness totally slips away. Nevertheless, the mushrooms have a natural healing essence that courses through the wound, causing him to pass out, though he is very near to death.
After some missile exchanges, the remaining orc decides to charge at Ruckus, who has concealed himself behind the carcass of the bear. A well-placed shot takes down the orc before any more harm is done. Ruckus finds some gear and some coins on the orcs, he also discovers a piece of parchments with some kind of orc writing on it.
Ruckus sets about trying to help heal and nourish Valith back to life. After about seven days of rest, the elf has his wits about him enough to want to read, but he is still very damage. They take another three days before departing. Ruckus found more mushrooms during the time Valith was recovering, to replace the ones that somehow expended themselves in preserving Valith.
Valith insists on burning the bear. Using one of the orc falchions, he etches in stone "Here lies Sir Barington the Great" but by the time he gets that far, the orc-made falchion he is using as both a hammer and a chisel has become entirely useless.
They return to Peter with mushrooms but no pimlock herbs. Peter says that Gavaris has been by looking for them, and they are to return to the town as soon as possible. Zedek is already at town. Upon getting back to the village, Gavaris is relieved to see them well. The observe that after ten days, the tree has lost many other branches and is noticably unwell.