The Burnt World of Athas

Session 5
I was just scared of the dark

The bedraggled Orphan Company members pitched camp by the Great Road until they were rested enough to continue to Altaruk without certain death. They spotted a small group far to the north heading in their direction parallel to the road and broke camp, fearing more Urikite scouts would catch them in their weakened state. Continuing south, the group reached Altaruk, although once again on the brink of exhaustion. They had some difficulties at the gate with the Crimson Suns, the company sworn to protect Alatruk and its environs, But it was nothing name-calling and glowering couldn't overcome. Eventually they secured an audience with Olgem, the middle-aged head of House Wavir's outpost in Altaruk and governor of the region.

They urgently warned Olgem that they had encountered Urikite troops deep within Tyrian territory. They marked the location of scouts they had encountered as well a s where they believed the larger army to be, as they had learned from their onetime captive turned shish-kabob. They also warned Olgem of the intercepted messages so he would find more secure means of communication, or at least send a great number of avian messengers. Olgem sent word to the brigade and a state of emergency was declared. A panicked buzz quickly made it's way around town: travel into and out of Altaruk would soon be cut off, the town expected to come under siege.

Dragonpaw made contact with a member of the N'Kosi trading collective to establish a favorable position during the upcoming crisis while the group went to a less reputable dealer to offload their weapons. On their return they encountered a commotion. A little girl stood in the center of a crowd, her hands tied with a length of rope to a post, while her father pleaded with the  large and unruly group. It quickly became clear that she stood accused of defiling, but also became clear that the young child did so unintentionally, if at all. Dragonpaw suggested giving the girl to the Templars to spare her life. Her father was elated at the possibility. The crowd however was not so happy to add to the ranks of their oppressors, though most feared to make that disdain clear.

While the rest spoke with the crowd, Bright Eyes went off with the young girl's neighbor and accuser. She learned the neighbor sounded an alarm after feeling weakness and pain and seeing a bright light. The mob pulled the girl out of her house upon finding the source of that light. Bright Eyes also went into the girl's sparse living quarters and found the proof she sought, a small and weak, but clear, defiling circle encompassing the girl's hammock. It had been hastily hidden by someone dragging a chest on top of it. Also in the hammock was an old tattered felt figurine of a desert rose, which Bright Eyes noted but left.

She returned to the group and gave the symbol for defiler. As Mulses restrained the inconsolable father, Bright Eyes slit the little girls' throat, whispering an apology but also an assurance that this was a far better fate than becoming a Templar. The crowd's blood-thirst quenched, they slowly dispersed with thanks to the company for having dealt with the budding sorceress. The group took the girl's body to a bonfire far from any of the hovels and burned her corpse. 

They returned to their room for a much needed rest, still hoping to make contact with any company members nearby and to prepare plans for travelling to Tyr amid the possible siege.

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Session 4
My only allegiance is to surviving

The Unfallen Host concluded the grim rites for Shale and Watcher and rested after the battle. They took the templar's water but nothing else, dismantling the weapons and armor to try to slow the process of anyone discovering what became of the Tyrian agents. Chronicler used an orphan cipher to transcribe the contents of the warrant and letter of marque and noted the names of the Templars from their papers. The company burnt the originals of the documents along with the Templar's bodies.

Towards the end of their resting, the members lifted their banner on a high point. After some time they could see birds closing in on them from the east and from the north. Meanwhile nearby, Kid was holed up in a cave with the man with the totem, whose name he purposefully preferred not to know. The young brother's kes'trekel, Trigger, surveyed the surrounding area and found the banner. Kid sneaked up to determine whether this was a trap and was spotted by Chronicler who chided him for not being more stealthy. 

The man joined the group and delivered a packet of papers that he said must make it to the group's employer. He explained that the cipher key for reading the documents was branded on the inside of his waterskin. He offered to decode it for them if they wanted, but they decided not knowing was better. However in secret Chronicler tore open the skin and decoded the message, believing it was best for one person to have the information as a backup. Bright eyes resealed the skin.

Dragonpaw didn't care for the group's secrecy and plainly asked the man who he was. He said his name was Kyrie, one of the veiled ones. He was acting in secret because his actions would be controversial among his comrades. He was making a deal with evil in the hopes of defeating a greater evil.

Dragonpaw asked why Templars would want to kill Kyrie, and he responded that there were many possible reasons, not the least of which was that as a member of the veiled alliance he sought to overthrow the Sorcerer-Kings themselves. Dragonpaw also asked about the totem, to which the man responded briefly that he did not have time to show him it's significance. But he also telepathically shared more with Dragonpaw.

The group debated traveling together, but ultimately the man stayed back to divert any following soldiers. He was known to the Templars and would be easily spotted in Altaruk or Tyr anyway. The rest of the group decided to press on immediately for fear of the looming falcons.

Unfortunately the group travelled too hastily to hide their tracks well or to find sufficient cover. The falcons initially headed towards the trapped canyon where Shale's banshee lay in wait. But after a few hours it became clear some birds were also following them. The group pressed on at a perilous rate, the desert sun taking it's toll on them. Eventually when they could go no further they set up camp and a weary watch. They saw a contingent of troops camped a few miles away. After debating a nighttime sneak attack or to pack up and leave to try to make it to the great road, the company decided to set an ambush and lie in wait.

The plan went remarkably well. Although outnumbered with 8 Urikite troops, the company hit them too quickly for them to recover. Bright Eyes and Chronicler rained fire and arrows from high ground as Dragonpaw and Kid punished the Urikites who made it to the narrow choke point leading up to their vantage point.

As the company massacred the troops, the final Urikite soldier put down her sword and surrendered. After convincing the company that her only interest was in survival, she parlayed for a promise of safety in exchange for sharing information. She explained that she was part of an outer force merely picking off any who may have spotted the larger army movement. King Hammanu was marching on Tyrian lands, to claim what is his. After marking the troop locations on a map and apparently telling the truth, Kid thanked her with a swift kick into the pit trap where she lay gurgling as the party left.

The party continued it's forced march towards the great road and Altaruk. This time marching until Chronicler literally could move no further. But they made it to the road, and set up camp nearby, anxiously awaiting whether the next travelers on the road would be friend or foe.

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Session 3
You've made a foolish mistake

The Unfallen and their allies left Blue Spring to follow the path the Templars had taken the previous evening. Watcher had a vague idea where the bright blue flash he saw had originated and Chronicler easily tracked the Tyrian agents. The tracks confirmed that there were three of them and a cilops, though a fourth set of tracks apparently belonging to a human joined them perpendicularly as they neared the site of the flash then veered off again as they made their way back..

The area ahead was a ravine, formed by the ancient river that once snaked through the alluvial sand wastes. They prepared themselves and rounded the corner to find a familiar face, Shale the amiable rogue in Grinner's unit who had the contact in Blue Spring. But the ravine cast a strange shadow over him. When Khalil called out to Shale a bright, blue flash lit the ravine walls as he turned to greet them. They could see Shale was grievously wounded yet spoke as though he didn't notice. Eventually Khalil realized he was a banshee: as a dwarf he had failed in a quest and his spirit would remain restless until he could accomplish it. He was still sane because of the recency of the events, but discovering he was dead could turn him into a raging, mindless ghost.

Farther in the ravine, Hafeeza and Chronicler discovered the spot where Shale had made his last stand. He had been attacked by the same Urikite troops the party had encountered while first fleeing the black steppes. He had killed at least 2, since their bodies remained, and the party took their items along with Shale's body to return to the cart.

But waiting back at the cart was a Templar, the one the party had spoken with when they first entered the town. He was with his large feline and he asked whether the party had encountered the same dwarf that he and his companions had encountered earlier. Though the party tried to be coy, the other two Templars revealed themselves from within the ravine, where they had been hidden. They had to admit the banshee was friendly with them, and they tried to play along without actually leading the group to the man they all sought. They asked Shale to take them to the man, while signalling in their company cant to keep them lost.

The Unfallen and the Templars commenced a tense march through the desert. Eventually the female Templar, who seemed the clear leader, became suspicious and insisted one of the living members of the group tell them how much further they had. Khalil lied and felt a psionic presence in his mind react. The female Templar told them to stop stalling, that they would die in the desert long before she and her companions.

Sensing no other options, the group decided to just get the truth from Shale and hope they could kill the Templars. Khalil took Shale aside while the rest of the party got in advantageous positions. He told Shale that he had failed his mission, and Shale became despondent as he realized what that meant and what he had become. As the brute who had accompanied Khalil reacted, Shale shared what information he could. The mission at the Black Steppes had been to feign a siege of the veiled alliance. But really the veiled ones and unfallen host had fought side by side when the Urikite army closed in on them. Some of their brothers and sisters may have even survived by retreating in the caverns under the steppes. Grinner's unit had been trying to make contact with the man with the totem, but had been hounded by Urikite troops the whole time. The man could survey a large area so they only had to make themselves known, but the company was never in position to safely beckon to him.

Meanwhile the battle raged on as Mulses easily felled the male rogue Templar and Hafeeza squished the Cilops like the bug that it was. Chronicler helped with the Cilops and turned his attention to the main obstacle, the powerful defiler that was raining fire. Khalil and his paladin corollary traded blows and healed themselves. Eventually with Mulses' help the brute was dropped, after what seemed like a countless number of blows. 

As the lead Templar continued to defile, the shouts in the cart turned silent. Watcher's blows struck true against her feline companion and the large cat fled to avoid certain death. Watcher turned to the main threat and wounded the defiler amid her constant stream of sorcery and defilement. Eventually he collapsed from her onslaught, as did all of his companions except Mulses and Chronicler. Her spells were tapped, but Chronicler's arrows could not find their mark. As she skirted the canyon wall it seemed she may manage to escape, until Mulses grabbed one of Watcher's spears and impaled her on the clay walls of the canyon, a look of shock on her face amid the realization that she was not as unstoppable as she believed.

The Unfallen regrouped after the devastating battle. A glance in the cart revealed the desiccated corpse of Demara frozen in a scream and clutching her lifeless baby. And as the party slowly brought their companions back on their feet they faced the grim realization that Watcher had made his last stand. He had borne the brunt of the defiler's attacks, and his body had been sapped of all life.

The party buried Shale and moved quickly to a safe location. They brought with them the bodies of Demara, her child, and their one-time leader Watcher.

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Session 2
See that great big ball of fire in the sky?

The party rested up and resupplied, bartering to sell their excess at a high price and even getting a discount by purchasing water in bulk. Watcher's Quartermaster Log Book keeps track of some of the more noteworthy items.

After getting sorted they reached out to the Templars and offered to help find the wanted man. The Templars welcomed any aid but wouldn't share information other than the man was dangerous and an enemy of Tyr. Watcher shared that the party had encountered defiling cirlces to the south west. 

In the morning Khalil and Mulses tried to subtly use magic to heal some injured caravan retinue for pay. They succeeded and were rewarded with enough to pay for everyone's room and board for the evening. They also learned this caravan had been hit hard on the way here and was looking for more support on the road to Altaruk.

Watcher and Bright Eyes reconnected with Jeran, the dwarf peddler who seemed to be a contact with someone in Grinner's unit. Jeran seemed on the level as he had also aided the party in bartering. Watcher pushed him for signs he was untrustworthy but found none. To keep up pretenses the party bought some useful shovels along with useful information. He noticed the Templars had left the previous night with the cilops and returned at sunrise. There were three of them who left although he wasn't able to see exactly who came back. 

With a mild distraction from Bright-Eyes, who needed assistance from the gate guard in finding the position of the midday sun, Watcher easily followed the strange insect tracks left by the Templars. They had gone along the road as the party had, but then veered off the road to the north, not the south where the party said the circles were located.

The party put their heads together and gleaned that this meant the Templars were unconcerned about the defiling circles and maybe even caused them. They also probably believed that the man was nearby as they continued to use Blue Spring as a base of operation. Based on their actions it didn't seem clear the Templars knew why the man was sticking around, but they did seem to have some lead they continued to pursue nearby.

Meanwhile Khallil's attempts to extract information from the local drunks drew attention from the Templars. Mulses noticed they made a point of bringing their strange feline out when they next spoke with Khalil. After the conversation they seemed satisfied and continued on their way. But Khalil had sensed a psionic presence try to probe his mind and get repulsed when he dissembled.

The party considered going out on the Templars path themselves or trying to follow the Templars or even grouping up with them. But instead they opted for the safest route of setting up to watch from town in case the Templars left on the second night. Bright-eyes flirted with the lookout while Mulses watched out. 

The ruse worked, but even from the lookout perch on the wall, Bright Eyes couldn't see where the Templars went in the dark. She  returned before things got too serious with the lookout. Watcher however had taken the opportunity to remain on the tavern roof. He also couldn't make out their path in the dark, until a magical illumination briefly lit up the desert, miles away but in the same direction he had seen their path take earlier that day.

The party went back to their room and waited to see if the Templars returned at sunrise again.

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Session 1
Tembo's coming for the baby

The party started off figuring out what to do with their prisoner. Khalil succeeded in making the captured scout talk, but Amari would not break. However a severe beating from Watcher left Amari whimpering for the Great King, an honorific for Hamanu, the Sorcerer-King who ruled Urik. This fit in with the rest of the information Khalil gleaned from Amari. The party pretended to make plans to reconnoiter in the scouts' direction and Malachi detected Amari's restrained joy at that prospect. There was clearly some salvation South-East, likely a larger force. Khalil made one last entreaty and when Amari used the opportunity to try to fool the party into heading South-East, Khalil and Mulses slew the dishonored scout.

After travelling for hours, Chronicler noticed that a creature had been following them for miles. He recognized it as a tembo from the Chronicles and children's stories; a fearsome, intelligent creature that killed for sadistic pleasure as much as survival. 

Unable to do anything but continue cautiously, the party encountered vultures in the distance. They crept up to discover a man in bad shape propped against an overturned cart. Hafeeza recognized his affliction as wasting sickness, which struck individuals randomly and left them with an unquenchable thirst for water. After they wasted away from dehydration, the bodies of the afflicted would rise again and spread undeath through their bites. Khalil was unable to heal the affliction, which the rest of the party thought obvious, but which seemed significant to Khalil as an indication that this was no disease.

The party also found a distraught woman, Damara, her child, and a chest bearing a Royal Tyrian imprimatur. The sides of the chest and the man's clothes bore a black diamond, the symbol of House Voldon, prominent for its role in Tyr's iron trade. The company members eventually convinced the man to put his family first and contract with them to bring the chest and his family to Tyr. Damara eventually acquiesced. Khalil and Chronicler circled back to kill the man and burn his body despite his pathetic insistence that he may recover.

The party marched as far as they could before it became clear they would die of exhaustion before reaching the Great Road. They found an easily defensible cavern to set up camp. Chronicler found mentions of the tembo in the Chronicles as psionically-attuned creatures created by the sorcerer-kings. They were designed to hunt beloved individuals or people whom others placed their hope in, but they were now wild roaming psychopaths who killed for amusement. 

Stepping out of the cavern to claim a lizard for breakfast, Chronicler turned to see the tembo perched atop the cave entrance. He asked whether it intended to take the baby and the tembo laughed, urging Chronicler to bring him the baby to find out. It attacked along with another of its kind. A vicious fight ensued and the party emerged beaten but victorious. They rested for an entire day to recover from the exhaustion of the march and the withering poison of the tembo. 

They finished their march to the Great Road and Green Spring, the nearest 'town" and likely rendezvous point with Grinner. Tyrian Templars briefly questioned the party about a man with a Dagorran totem before allowing them entry. The party made it to the safety of the town's reinforced earthen walls and spring. It didn't take long for a vendor to catch their attention with heavy handed hints that he bore a message left by Company members within a hideous pottery figurine of a bloated man.

The party purchased and broke the pottery abomination to reveal a note in Grinner's hand along with a portrait of a man. The note reads:

We're heading East. It is imperative that we all work to find the man whose portrait I've enclosed. We must retrieve the packet he is carrying. If that's not possible, you know where to go. – Grinner, 1st Sgt. 

The note ends with symbols in Orphan-tongue that indicate there is more to share but this is not a safe enough means to share it.

As they glanced at the portrait a sneaking suspicion in everyone's mind was realized, the man the Company sought was the same the Templars were tracking.

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Session 0
Smiley and Looker are Dead

The party defeated 4 soldiers and 2 falconers that they believe were scouting and/or intercepting messages in the region. The scouts traveled light and had nothing giving way their allegiance other than being trained and appearing to be regulars of some fighting force. Aside from their competence, Watcher partially gleaned this from the standardized make of their weapons. They had the following items on them:

4 short bows
2 longbows
6 sets of travelers clothes and padded armor
6 obsidian scimitars
6 half full water skins
6  rations
20 arrows
The three scrolls Mulses found in a hidden pocket on a falconer

The party has one scout alive (one of the soldiers) who was still subject to the sleep spell. The others are all dead along with the 2 falcons. Chronicler had to spend 20 minutes after the fight finding the body of the second falcon which had flown a good distance away before he shot it. 

The three scrolls were: 

A Dark Sun rises in the west,
Festival of the Soaring Sun
Or Sooner. Festival of
the Highest Sun too late.

Troops spotted along Great
Road. Southward, from Urik
or Raam. Near fork North of Silver Spring.

Ambushed by an army. Not veiled,
not cells, had defilers. Smiley + Looker
are dead. Even Weird outclassed

 -Lash, 3rd Sgt

None of the scrolls had their seals intact so there is no indication where they are from except by their contents. The party assumed these are intercepted messages sent by pigeons that the falconers brought down. 

The party believes the first scroll is referring to two of the festivals of the season. Watcher is guessing Dark Sun rising in the West is a warning about some army or power in the west.

The second scroll is unknown but its contents appear to speak for themselves, or are in no code the party recognizes.

The third scroll appears to be from Lash, the Sergeant leading the siege of the black steppes where the company was ambushed. It references the events of the attack and, in simple code, seems to make a point of Grinner and Watcher being alive. Grinner's party was, as far as you know, acting as comparable lookouts on the entrance to the parallel canyon that you were guarding.

Fearing the consequences of being caught by what appears to be a large, capable fighting force with powerful sorcerers, the party is planning to continue their controlled retreat back to the great road and one of the spring towns to rendezvous with Grinner, if possible, or get a message to him or the main company.

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Background
Hijacked by Shane, SUCKERS!!!!!!!1

Campaign Start: In some shitty oasis town in the Tablelands. PC Company Members are on their way to return to Company main force. PC Company Members were part of a detachment sent to this area to root out Veiled Alliance. The detachment was devastated, with only the PCs remaining. Still have a long way to go, so they're looking for strength in numbers to make it back. Non-Company Members have their own reasons for joining the group, and might have joined (or allied) prior to this mission (Susie, probably) or very recently (Bryan, probably).

Company Ideals/Principles:

Confirmed:

Loyalty. A brother who takes the oath will die for the company and his comrades, and they will do the same for him or her. It treats each of its contracts with the same level of commitment. Background doesn't matter. The company is comprised of soldiers, criminals, escaped slaves, and even arcanists; they all find a home in the company as long as they uphold the company's ideals.

Tradition. The company has a Chronicler who records its history and uses these chronicles to inspire and strengthen the brotherhood.

Allies. The company employs friends and allies to help them along, and some are treated almost as closely as sworn brothers.

Potential:

Death to Defilers. The company's morality is grey, but Defiling is the only (almost) inexcusable act. A brother who is found to be defiling is entitled to defend his choice, but only in the most extreme circumstances is he afforded reprieve from death.

Broad Stroke PC Backgrounds:

I-Hsien: Broke his staff, found a scroll inside. Maybe a Company Brother.

Shane: Goliath tribesman. Company Brother for close to a decade.

Jim: Company Brother. Yet-to-be-determined back story.

Bryan: Mul freedom fighter. Looking for some cover after initiating a small slave revolt nearby.

Susie: Hermit Cleric on Rumspringer. Hired by the company as a healer (not a brother)

Steph: Formerly a templar. Company Brother?

Cam: Company brother for 6 months, As far as the company knows just a wandering fighter from a merchant family.

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