City-State of Nibenay, along a northwest trail to Bremil Pass; 190th King’s Age, Year of Priest’s Defiance, Day 1
Melmoth the Merciless
With some of Melmoth’s tribe rescued from the clutches of slavery, the group starts to discuss their next action. Qhorin proposes returning to the city to engage in a bit more trade and to earn some extra money by sponsoring Melmoth in the illegal fights in the warrens, but the group’s discussion is interrupted by a massive explosion from the city itself. In the distance, miles away, the group can see a large cloud of smoke and dust rising from one of the buildings, and a great stone tower falls.
The chaos in Nibenay silences the group, who peer as best they can to see what’s happening. Shortly thereafter, another explosion erupts, then a gigantic illusory visage of Nibenay himself appears over the city. From this distance, the party cannot hear what it says, but clearly if the sorcerer-king himself is making an appearance, bad things are afoot. Tikka casts an augury and determines that heading back toward the city will lead to woe.
The group quickly decides that it’s best to hide out away from the city, at least until the current chaos settles down, and they make their way over the rocky hills and into the Crescent Forest. There, just a few feet from the edge of the hills, they set up camp to hunker down and wait out the disaster.
With a few hours’ work the group establishes a fairly sedate encampment at the base of a large agafari tree. Tikka shows one of her fantastic powers as a priestess when she conjures water into existence in her wooden bowl! With such bounty, the team mulls over the possibility of simply living in the woods, away from the nonsense of the noble houses and sorcerer-kings . . .
As the group settles in they catch sight of a pair of dust clouds moving along the road through the hills at the base of the mountains. Investigation shows that it’s a small band of elves, running — with all their possessions on their backs — to outdistance a group of city guard mounted on crodlu. While the guards are persistent, they are falling behind the elves; their persistence is likely the result of knowing that if they come back without making a serious effort, they will likely suffer punishment.
A short time after the elves and guards pass, a small group of refugees passes along the road as well — this one, a trio; one male mul, one male human, and one female human. The mul, carrying a huge basket of supplies and an impaler, is clearly forging forward while the two humans are keeping up as best they can. Qhorin signals the group from a safe distance to ask questions about the happenings in Nibenay. The impatient mul, occasionally interrupted by one of the humans, answers that chaos has struck the city, rioting is rampant in the streets, and the sorcerer-king himself is calling out offenders and sending his templar-wives to arrest or kill them.
The party lets the refugee group pass; soon, another group arrives as well — a much less well-equipped group of humans led by a dwarf. Again, Qhorin calls out to them for news; the dwarf explains that a magical battle erupted in the noble quarter after a strange prophet climbed atop one of the high buildings and started making proclamations about the death of Kalak and the fall of the city-state of Tyr. People began to riot, templars arrived and engaged in a magical battle with a wizard, and the image of Nibenay appeared to strike fear into the populace and reinforce order. Some people, seeing the devastation in progress, grabbed their possessions and fled the city as best they could. The dwarf acquired a focus of shepherding this sad and sorry group of human refugees away from the city and escaped by the western gate before the city militia and guard became organized enough to seal it off.
Better informed, the party lets the sobbing and despondent refugees pass, then hunkers down for the night.
I Love the Smell of Bacon in the Morning
In the morning, the party wakes up and starts to plan their activities, but Melmoth announces that he plans to join his tribe and help them in re-settling in a safer part of the forest. Only a short time after Melmoth leaves and the group finishes packing, they hear strange bird-like noises from the forest, and Tikka realizes that they aren’t bird calls — they’re a halfling hunting party. Sure enough, only a few minutes later, several small faces peer out from the foliage, many of them pointing sharp and dangerous weapons at the party members.
Fortunately, the halflings approach Tikka in a friendly fashion. In a few moments they establish that Tikka is keeping the tall folk with her to have a ready supply of food for her travels, and the halfling woodsmen and women helpfully bind the party with vines and lead Tikka and the prisoners to their hunting camp a few miles away.
The halfling hunting camp is a sparse affair hidden in the woods, barely noticeable even while the party is standing in the middle of it, except for the tree with several more prisoners tied around it — including the wailing, sobbing human refugees that the party saw earlier on the road. (There’s no sign of the dwarf.) In addition, the halflings appear to have captured an elf, a confident-looking human who isn’t a refugee, and a sickly human who looks like he’s on the edge of death. One of the human refugees has already been skinned and spitted and is roasting over a large cooking fire.
The halflings offer Tikka their hospitality, and after some careful discussion they even offer some of the local flavor to the party’s curious vulture. The festivities are interrupted, however, by two halfling scouts who arrive breathless and exclaim that there’s a force of shambling, walking dead things approaching the camp. Something has been tracking the halflings — or one of their captives — and now a small force of undead are on their way. Whether it’s Nibenay or a renegade defiler, nobody knows, but it’s clear that even with two dozen skilled halfling trackers and warriors at hand, this force of zombies and worse may be a serious problem.
Aware of the problems of their situation, the halflings give the party an ultimatum: Fight alongside them and be freed, or refuse and be cut down before they can cause any more problems!