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Holding Out- Solo in The Hold of Belkzen

Game Master Mowque

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HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

Unable to get the sound to reach far enough, the Wild Mouse crouches low and darts between rocks, using a vanishing incantation whenever he feels too exposed, to get into position.

Cast Heroism, then use stealth. Cast vanish if needed (let me know if that's the case, I'll remove the slots).

Stealth: 1d20 + 7 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 7 + 2 = 23

Once in position, he uses his voice to mimic the cry of a wyvern, coming in low beyond the range of mountains. He controls the sound however, to come from above him, and to his left, so that the ankhegs will flee towards the Steal Eater Orcs and their mechanical contraption.

Noche'Wa easily sneaks in among the rocks and brush downt he slope, leaving Korz behind, watching.

No vanish needed

Concentrating, he casts his spell and he can soon hear the same distant shriek. Everyone in the valley looks up, peering at the bright sky. The ankhegs, after a moment, utterly panic. They start jostling, biting, trying to jump free. Instinct drives them mad, shaking and rattling the chains. Everyone orcs jump in, trying to master the suddenly crazed beasts, with the large, red-lined female snapping one orc warrior's leg clean off. He lies, thrashing in his own blood.

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

Noche'Wa waves his fingers quickly, weaving a spell. The skin of the female ankheg soon becomes oily and slippery.

Cast Grease on the female ankheg.

In a instant all chaos breaks loose. The large female anhkegs slips her chains is soon running among the orcs and other insects. Chains snap, manacles break and even the will of orc warriors has a breaking point. Utter chaos as the swarm of insects charges right toward the massive machine and the robed orcs, who look at the sight in obvious aghast panic.

Blood is spilled as everyone simply tries to get away from the bloodthirsty herd. Engineers scramble up on wagons, soldiers sprint up the nearby hills.

very inventive, I didn't even think of this. What next?

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

Noche'Wa returns to his friend and together they watch the stampede.

"Looks like war'll have to wait..." he comments with a smile, lighting a Varisian cigar.

He waits until the dust settles to see who's left standing.

The panic lasts until dusk sweeps over the valley, with shouts, cries and crashes echoing as the light dies. Noche'wa knows at least a few orcs have been killed down there, but in the melee it was hard to tell.

Finally though, silence returns, wrapped in darkness.

'Shall we explore?" Korz says, standing up, sword in hand.

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

Noche'Wa nods and, like two shadows, they float low on the barren landscape, making their way to the abandoned contraption and the fallen Orcs.

Once in sight of the carnage, the Shoanti mutters a prayer to his ancestors and they grant him the Sight. The landscape shifts slightly as he can now see eldritch lines of energy coursing through it. He concentrates on the bodies first.

Detect Magic.

Noche'wa sees little at first, among the dead warriors. Perhaps a minor amulet there, a unused potion there. he finds nothing very useful. Korz examines them nodding, "The Black Sun, for sure. I do not see an officers however, no higher ranking clan leaders."

Coming up to the looming machine, Noche'Wa sees more blood and bodies. A few more orcs died here, trying to make a stand besides the device. One, an old looking warrior, is still breathing, barely. He does summon enough energy to spit on Noche'Wa's foot as he steps past. The human detects no magic on him.

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

The Shoanti kneels near the Orc and addresses him with a mix of fear and reverence: "What happened here? We heard the commotion from a distance and came to investigate? Are you all right? You need help?!"

Bluff w/ Heroism: 1d20 + 8 + 2 ⇒ (3) + 8 + 2 = 13

You are not disguised as an orc though, correct?

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

I thought about it, but then forgot about it. I have the hat of disguise, so it's an easy thing. I'd have done so, but I didn't mention it, so up to you if you prefer not.

The orc's eyes are unfocused, nearly closed. "The ankhegs...something spooked them. They went wild, everywhere. Couldn't...couldn't handle them. One bit my leg....blood...hurts." Noche'Wa glances and sees the orc's leg is ripped off from the knee down. It is amazing he is still even able to speak but the orc is legendary for their ability to withstand pain.

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"Ankhegs! By Belkzen, why would you play with ankhegs! Are you fools?" says the Wild Mouse as he tries to stop the bleeding in the Orcs' leg.

Heal with Heroism: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (10) + 2 = 12

Noche'Wa tries to staunch the wound but it is long past his meager skills. Even magical healing would probably only prolong his agony. As the Shoanti touches the dried blood the orc hisses in pain.

"Let me die, fool. I know the gods are calling me.." his voice fades but then it grows a bit, " was a job...unofficial, dirty work. Paid well..."

His eyes re-focus on Noche'wa and jerk in surprise, 'A pinkskin, here? Am I dreaming? Is the afterlife full of your kind? Have our gods failed..." His voice trails off in horror and pain.

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"I'm a hired hand, just like you are it seems... You're not dead yet, but I can't help you much more than this. I will end your life if you wish me to, but tell me more! It seems so incredible, that you would gather ankhegs. Was it for war? Who hired you?"

Diplomacy with Heroism: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (13) + 7 = 20

The orc grins a bloody smile, 'War, indeed, pinkskin. You'll find out soon enough you and many others...." he coughs, blood bubbling out of his mouth. Korz comes over and kicks him sharply, "Which clan hired you?"

"....The....twisted.....nail...." then he dies, eyes going blank.

Korz curses, 'The Twisted Nail? That tells us nothing except more shadows. The Nail does not hire warriors, they have no need..."

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"We will learn more then. We will track those who survived, those who fled..." the Shoanti offers. He didn't like that Orc's last words. They loomed low over him, casting his will in shadows.

Korz looks around, "The two of us? Tracking a larger group in the dark? Before you say that, look at what I found."

The orc leads Noche'Wa to another fallen body. Magic glows softly on this one and Shonati sees it is one of the robed figures, trampled by ankhegs.

The robe is ripped and torn, made of thick black hemp. The skin, what little hasn't been crushed is pale and layered with intricate scars and brands, in some unknown arcane script. The face is slashed beyond recognition but a gruesome wooden mask, splintered and broken rests nearby. It glows with magic, although fading.

The Shoanti has never seen such a thing before. The mask seems to stare at him, from jagged eyeholes.

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

The Shoanti ignores his friend's comment and approaches, leaving the Orc to his death.

"Hmm... A Steel Eater? Nice mask, in a way..." he bends and inspect the mask first, then the body.

Spellcraft: 1d20 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (18) + 4 + 2 = 24

Korz spits, "No Steel Eater wears a mask. And this all smells of magic..."

Noche'Wa can tell little of the mask but it was the source of magic, although he is unsure of what type. The same is true of the scars and brands, which still burn with arcane light, rapidly fading. He finds no spell components or spellbook.

Sorry, I made a typo. The dying orcs last words were Steel Eater not Twisted Nail. The twisted Nail is a different tribe totally unconnected with this. It wasn't even a typo that revealed a spoiler, just used the wrong name. My apologizes!

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"And that's a bad thing? I mean, is this guy dressed as a Steel Eater, but uses magic? Is that what's bothering you?" asks Noche'Wa, not sure what his friend means.

Korz nods, "The Steel Eaters are not a clan, exactly. They are a group of our artisans, makers of weapons. They live at the Foundry, from where all good orc weapons flow. Beyond reproach, even Grask deals lightly with them, and they have broken lesser clans for mere slights. They are rich and well controlled. By old tradition and clan laws, they do not have magic. Why would they do this, they invite disaster..."

He looks at Noche'Wa, "War, it may mean war...but why?"

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"Ok, then let's say these are not Steal Eaters, or a splinter group of Steal Eater. Any way to recognize a real one from a fake one? I mean, besides using magic..." The Shoanti asks, thinking out loud to bounce ideas off his friend.

Do other Steal Eaters have masks, or just this one?

The orc shrugs, "They have some clan symbols." he points to a small tattoo near the ear, and some designs on the inner layers of clothes, hidden by the billowing thick robes. "Most other clans I could tell by how they look, but the Steel Eaters recruit from all the clans, so are a mix. A mongrel clan."

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"In other words, you don't know if this guy's just pretending to be a Steal Eater, right? In any case, you want to try the mask on?"

The orc jumps back in horror, 'No! Magic is not some toy, Shoanti. Who knows what it may do, how it may twist my mind." Then he stands up, tall and proud, 'Besides, I am a warrior, no sulking mage. It would be beneath me to even contemplate it. I do think we should take it though. It may prove of import when I report this to my Lord."

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"Well, that Steal Eater, or pretender, was using magic. I could feel the magic in his tattoos! And that mask... I just can't tell whether it is dangerous or not, but I have to know, and there's only one sure way to know..." and with that, the Shoanti puts the mask on.

Oh my, you ARE a brave one, aren't you? Didn't anyone tell you that being so curious can be bad for a character's health?

Even as the orc waves for him to stop, Noche'Wa puts on the broken and cracked mask. For a moment nothing unusual happens, just the feeling of rough wood against his skin, his sight narrowed to two dark outlets.

Then the world seems to explode in pain. It is pain as the Shoanti has never experienced, ripping, tearing, burning his body. Liquid ice in his joints, bones cracking, skin ripping....The warrior falls to his knees, blind with the pain and horror washing over him, seeming to come from inside. A lifetime of torture and agony fill him in an instant and time seems to freeze, slow so he can fully feel this pain. A strange, icy coolness seems to lance through him, chilling his heart to die.

Blackness swarms over him and the human eagerly relishes it, hoping the sweet embrace of death will free him from this torment, the crashing waves of pain. His eyes shut and he falls forward, prone onto the ground.

"Pinkskin, pinkskin. Shoanti!" he hears a voice shouting dimly. 'Do you live?" His eyes flutter open and he sees Korz looming over him.

Every joint hurts, his eyes burn, muscles stretched past endurance. Just lying unmoving on the ground hurts.

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

For a long while, the Wild Mouse felt that this was the end. Never had he endured so much pain, so much emptiness, so much fear. When finally it came, it felt like a caress, like the soft touch of starlight.

I will get to dance with and jump over the stars! he thought, just as he passed out, grateful for the end of his pain.

But then the world called him back. Perhaps the land, its ancestors, had not had enough of him? Perhaps they put a good word to the Bone Lady? In any case, he feels his friend standing by him, worried, and he manages a faint impish smile and asks, keeping his eyes close and his body immobile: "Did I scare you?"

The pain was atrocious. There was something to be said about death, it was painless, once you got there...

Korz snorts loudly and leans back, out of Noche'Wa's vision.

'One is not scared when a fool does something foolish and the gods call him. I was merely curious if I had to loot your body." The gruff voice says, 'And add your corpse to those piled around."

The pain slowly recedes, but his face hurts more, as if something real happened there. He also feels strange, something wrong with his mind.

Will Save: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (4) + 4 = 8

A growing doubt about his skill, about is destiny...Was he truly fit for the task ahead?

'Your face..." Korz says, curious and leaning forward again, 'It is black." a puzzled pause then, 'I have traveled the high mountains at times, even above the trees. It is cold there, cold enough to burn skin. Your face looks those who stood watch on those cold nights. But how?"

Moderate frostbite on face. Nothing permanent.

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"All right, I get it, it was not my best moment..." His head whirls, in strange ways, and his face stings with every word.

"Still, makes me wonder how that guy managed to have the mask on... His face looks like mine?"

The orc shakes his head, 'No, no burns. Although it is hard to tell some ankheg stepped on his face, but I see nothing unusual except the strange tattoos and brands."

For the Shoanti the pain from the rest of his body diminshes although he does feel cold, chilled in his limbs.

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"Hmmm... In any case, it didn't like me... Ok, let's see how bad it is." The Shoanti, with grunts and groans, tries to sit, waits, then tries to get to his feet.

The Shoanti gets up, a few last needles of cold in a several joints. They fade though as he gets to his feet, washed away by his body's warmth. His face though, feels as if it has been burned and peeled.

His lips, nose and ears all appear to be intact if blackened and peeling painfully. It could have been worse, much worse.

Mechanically, you have taken 34 points of non-lethal damage. So I'd advise you to take easy until you get some sleep. That will restore you fully. Clear?

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"Ogh! I feel like a herd stampeded over my body! I fear I can't be of much help until the morning. All these bodies... I guess it's a bad idea to camp nearby? Lots of predator will likely be drawn by the smell." comments the Shoanti as he gets to his feet painfully.

Perhaps it was for the best? He looked at the mask, impossibly curious as to its meaning. Here's a riddle I can't solve. For now...

As they walk away from the scene of the carnage, he looks to Korz: "I'll keep the mask and keep studying it, but I won't wear it. Now, why shouldn't we follow the ones who fled? Don't you want to know what's going on?"

As the pair leave the death filled valley, Korz answers, 'I do, Shoanti, more then you can know. Two things worry me, one being they outnumbered us and may have magic that could defeat us."

The orc glances at the cracked mask. Then he adds, "Second, Skull Hill. I am still bound by my oath to go and see that place. Perhaps some evil has happened there as well..."

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"You're all tease... Remember you were the one who wanted to investigate this, and now you're having second thoughts? Now you wish to go back to your first plan? Noooo, now you got ME curious, friend. Now I want to know what the heck is going on. And if these Orcs are up to war, then we need to know with whom! It could be with your tribe, it could be with mine. In any case, war is bad for business."

They climb the rocky slopes, clambering over sun-dried rocks and around dry brush. They are roughly following the trail of the escaping orcs. It leads north, away from Skull Hill.

Korz pauses on a high bluff, obviously thinking hard. "They are a large group, they cannot travel fast. We have time to go investigate Skull Hill then go and track them." The orc looks troubled and adds, 'I need to speak to Grask about this....these are deep waters, Shonati."

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"But what are you going to tell Grask? You have more questions than answers. Vague warnings will make you look a fool if you're not careful... But if you say you can track the group after we have a glance at Skull Hill, then I'm with you. But I NEED to rest. My whole body feels like it's marinating in ankheg juice..."

Ready to move on after a beauty rest!

They make a small campsite in the notch of the hills. All night they can hear, distantly, various beasts feeding on the remains int he valley below. It does not seem to bother Korz much and he explains such things are common on orc battlefields. Burying the slain dead is uncommon among his people.

The next morning Korz stares north, where the group of unknown orcs went.

"I think you may have been right, Shoanti. We should track them, head north. I do not want to look the fool."

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

Noche'Wa, glad for a night of almost real rest, thinks of a million things to say to Korz, but the Orc seems genuinely worried, so he keeps it to himself; a rare thing.

"Ready to go. Let's find out what these guys are about."

The two of them descend into the valley and easily pick up the trail. There are footprints of various types, a few blood trails, and Korz even mentions being able to track the scent of the orcs. Quickly they find a small camp where they gathered and slept last night but the fires are already cold. The trail heads dead north.

They follow it until noon,making good time, gaining on their quarry. The sun arcs high overhead, making the back of Noche'Wa's neck blister and sunburn even his tanned skin. His face still aches fromt he frostbite the day before.

Then, as they enter a rough area of stone,t he tracks vanish. Not just become hard to find, but simply...stop. Korz smells the air and curses, 'Even the scent is gone!"

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"Probably went underground... Let's go back a bit and find where the trail ends. We can search that area. There must some kind of cave we missed..."

Perception: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (1) + 7 = 8

They double back, finding the exact spot the tracks simply cease. Noche'Wa finds no caves, no passages, no signs of why the trail vanishing into thin air.

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"It's like they vanished into thin air..." he comments, completely dumbfounded, looking at the sky to check for an invisible ladder.

Detect Magic...

There is no sign of magic, but Noche'Wa guesses they are a few hours behind their quarry. Any magical auras would have dissipated by now so the spell is inconclusive.

Korz looks around, stumped. "Some sort of magic, you think? Perhaps the mask wearers?"

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"That or their cave is well hidden, very well hidden... In any case, let's keep looking, unless you want to try on the mask?" comments the Shoanti.

The orc looks at him in horror and shakes his head, "Are you mad? Look at your face! It is still black as night..." Shaking his head, they spent hours looking for the trail but find nothing, not even ranging ahead to find it. Finally, as the sun starts to head west Korz gives up.

"Nothing, Shoanti." He sighs, "An orc in the Hold and I cannot track a band of wounded....I have lost my touch." he seems depressed and angry.

HP 35/35 || AC 18, T 12, FF 16 || F +4, R +8, W +4 || Init +2 || Per +7 || MF 0/4 used || Luck: 0/6(18) used || Buffs:

"This can only mean there is some kind of magical portal, something that allows them to pass through. Perhaps we need a pass word? Or a gesture? Or a key..." he looks at the mask.

"Do you think others had similar masks?"

Korz ponders it then says shortly, "Steel Eaters in robes, who knows? If the masks give magic, would be easier then training a bunch of them secret for years."

As for the idea of a portal the orc spits and says, 'Or they just hide the tracks with magic, I know a few shamans who can dot his."

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