The journey from Kellreach has been long and exhausting. Even your trusted companion Irissa was unwilling to accompany you for the last stretch of the journey from Vigil to Freedom Town. Her parting words were, "I wish you all the best, dear Xylor. But I cannot travel so far from my home when it might need protecting. Not on the words of an orc." The words she referred to still ring fresh in your memory. "You are wood, and earth, and water. Seek the one of air and fire, in the town of Free Men."
The dream has come every night since you first heard those words. In the dream, you are on the edge of a great forest. In the distance you can see a large walled city. As you watch, a black tide begins to rise slowly in the west and south. It sweeps across the land, drowning everything in darkness. By the time it reaches the city walls, it is a raging torrent of blackness. The tide smashes the walls in a single blow and floods the city, burying it beneath stygian waves. The vile sea barely slows down before turning toward the forest. You begin to run, but cannot escape the torrent. Just as it is about to engulf you, a pair of strong hands reaches down from above, grasping you by the collar. Looking up, you see a half-orc borne aloft on eagle's wings. The dream fades as he carries you up toward the sun.
Each morning after the dream, you have awoken drenched in cold sweat, the spirits of the dryads whispering a name in your ear "Arnrich…..Arnrich……" Today is the day that you finally will reach Freedomtown, and hopefully some answers.
Freedomtown is everything you hoped it would be. Ashcrom was hesitant at first to invest in such a volatile area, but you were able to convince him that you could do a lot of good there. Your halfway house for young half-orcs trying to escape from Belkzen has been a resounding success. You've managed to place over a dozen youths into jobs or apprenticeship programs throughout Lastwall over the past year. Currently the house is empty, and you've had plenty of time to work on your formulae. In fact that's what you're currently doing when you hear a soft knocking on the front door.
Xylor wipes sweat from his brow, squinting in the glare of the Belkzen sun. I hope Arnrich is an ice-seller, he thinks as he glances to the right of him at the caps of snow at the tips of the Hungry Mountains, shimmering in the heat. Traveling west along the river from Vigil was easy enough, but the northwards slog, as the land turned warmer and more arid, proved difficult.
"Freedom Town, Freedom Town...I hope you have ice-cold baths, and something cool to drink besides," Xylor half-sings.
Then, over a gentle rise, he sees more fertile lands, farmland, and a small fortified city. He heads toward it at a regular trot, grinning.
Standing before Arnrich's door is the hunched form of Kasugach the orcish shamaness. She leans heavily on a cane carved from the leg bone of some mighty beast of ages gone by. It is hung round with feathers and beads. Her tusks are yellow, and worn down with age. She looks up at Arnrich through the heavily wrinkled flesh around her eyes, her glance sharper than her age belied. "Greetings winged one." she says in her strange bird-like voice, a smile breaking out across her face. Her bare feet shuffle under the hem of her formless robe as she awaits his response.
The 'Gates' of Freedom Town:
The closer Xylor gets to Freedom Town, the lower his expectations get of finding anything resembling comfort here. The shoddy looking buildings are of mismatched timber construction, displaying no uniformity in the profusion of styles. It's clear that none of them were built by professional hands. The town is walled with a simple wooden palisade no more than six feet tall, and there are no guards visible as you approach. The main gate is just a couple wooden uprights and two what appear to be barn doors strapped on to them. No one stops him as he enters. The road is muddy and foul. Even at this relatively early hour of the day there are a surprising number of drunk men laying in the muck. Small packs of filthy dogs wander around gnawing on the waste that's been thrown into the street. The smell of pigs and chickens is also present, along with woodsmoke.
Do they keep the orcs away with the smell? Xylor wonders. He appreciates the wood in this relatively treeless land, though, and doesn't mind the barnyard smells or the ramshackle demeanor. He runs a hand over a piece of wood idly as he enters the gate, and searches for a place to get information--a reputable shop, perhaps, or a pub that doesn't have people getting thrown out the windows. Preferably one that has ice. He sips a waterskin and glances around while continuing to walk, somewhat on his guard.
Perception: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (17) + 7 = 24
Arnrich's wariness gives way to a warm smile and he speaks
Greetings, honorable Kasugach. Please come in and accept my hospitality, poor as it might be. he continues with a laugh.
Arnrich proceeds to fetch her a cup of water and a some bread in case she wished to immediately sate any thirst or hunger.
As always, I have many questions regarding the Hold. But, you have traveled far and I will patiently await as you bring any tidings or ask any questions of your own.
With that, Arnrich patiently waits upon his visitor.
Arnrich will eventually ask questions regarding any new possible youths to be brought to the house, whether or not Kasugach has chosen to take an apprentice, and eventually of the Hold. This is in addition to any important interacting questions she and he may engage in (this post and following responses). As a player I don't want to completely gloss over such interactions but I do recognize this is a PbP. :)
Wandering the streets for a few minutes Xylor comes across a pub called the Twisted Troll, its sign depicting an extremely intoxicated troll, he thinks. It's difficult to be sure due to the low skill of the engraver. No one seems to be getting thrown out the windows, in fact the only person evident is a very very old looking orc man sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the building. His skin is wrinkled and completely leathery. On his head is a straw hat and his body is covered in a too-big shirt and pants. He sort of just stares at Xylor, rocking back and forth saying nothing. The doors to the pub are double swinging ones, saloon style.
"Thank you." she says, sipping the water and sitting down. "I come from Vigil, with ill tidings. A great threefold evil has arisen in the hold. It is corrupting our people, driving them to greater evils than even their bitter hearts are normally capable of. I fear if nothing is done then all will be lost."
This place defended against onslaught after onslaught orc hordes? How long ago, I wonder?. The oracle tries to hide his bemusement. Nirmathis would have been in the (nonexistent) trees, bows drawn at the ready. Xylor tips his traveler's hat at the aged orc man and enters the Twisted Troll, dreaming of something cool to drink, but also thinking about his dream, as the shadow of the building passes over his face. .
Well, then I guess I will have to do something about them. Arnrich says with a smile, trying to lighten the situation.
Hopefully, I can gather a few individuals to help deal with this threat before it reaches the point of necessity for full-scale armies. he continues, almost to himself.
What information regarding these Hidden Three have you been able to uncover? Sadly, I'm guessing not much, else they would not be hidden.
Also, have you considered what can be done to move some to safety or if perhaps I can help in that regard too?
The Twisted Troll:
The tavern is relatively empty as befits the early hour. It's only a shade cooler inside than it is outside. The saloon is relatively small, full of small round tables with stools around them. There's a giant copper still behind the bar counter. The bartender looks up as Xylor enters. She's a hugely buxom half-orc woman with a face that could make an ugly pug run in terror. She smiles coquettishly and waves her fingers at Xylor. The only other patrons in the bar are a half dozen smelly beardy men, staring into identical mugs of an amber colored liquid. None of them even bother to glance at the newcomer.
"Should the threat reach fruition all of Lastwall and Nirmithas could fall. Evacuation is not the solution here. The Three are heavily warded against divination. All I can tell you for now is that they led a tribe of fleshwarped orcs in an attack against Kellreach but were defeated by some heroes there. I have....motivated...a man named Xylor to come here and seek you. I believe that the two of you working together is all that can stop the Three." She pauses to stare at Arnrich in her slightly creepy old-seer way. "He should be arriving in Freedom Town anytime now. Have you a basin of water? I can scry his location." She says, pulling an expensive looking silver mirror from somewhere inside the folds of her robe, along with a lock of brown hair. She cackles slightly rubbing the hair between her fingers.