Monday, June 15, 2009

Story of the Madu

As told by the Madu trader, Vati to the adventurers helping to get him home:

Once we were a great people. Devote worshippers of Oghma, the Binder of What is Known, we collected knowledge from all points of the world and brought it to benefit us. We built dams to direct the water and protect our crops. We build many libraries and universities for study. Our cities gleamed with tall buildings of white marble. The people suffered little from disease and illness and those who died before their time were often brought back to life.

All was not perfect, of course. Those capable of study were admired and given all the opportunities of our society. Those who lacked the faculties or the discipline were treated well, but they were still our servants. Villages and cities tended to spring up around the illustrious halls of learning, while other settlements held little interest for us. Those who opposed us were dealt with harshly by our clerics and holy warriors, perhaps too harshly at times, but the fall of our civilization would have meant a descent into the war and madness of the past.

Not all knowledge was permitted for study, which is the origin of how our civilization eventually fell. A secret sect emerged within our tradition called The Black Water. They studied fell magic, such as kidnapping and ransoming souls, contact with the Far Realm, illusion and trickery, and necromancy and planar manipulation. We stomped out Black Water adherents without mercy when they were found, but the knowledge was intoxicating and many young people fell under the sway of the Black Water, drowning in its depths.

One of these young people was The Whispered One, then known as Vecna. Vecna was a brilliant cleric of Oghma and gifted healer. His desire for knowledge of the human body was complete in our tradition, but he wanted more. He was recruited by The Black Water and was secretly allowed to carry out gruesome experiments on those in our prisons. Vecna did not stop there and his thirst for forbidden knowledge knew no bounds.

Eventually Vecna was discovered. Rather than go quietly, Vecna used his friends in the prison guard to stage an uprising, including the warden, an upright knight named Kas who had also been seduced by the secret knowledge and its resulting power. It is true, also, that we were guilty of much hypocrisy, as you might imagine when one has absolute power. The forbidden knowledge they sought at first was simply truth, held from them by our order, but the line between hidden knowledge and dangerous knowledge is a hard one to define.

Vecna and Kas started a war that lasted two hundred years, proving by their unnatural longevity that they were dabbling with dark powers. Our dams were destroyed, our lands flooded and most of our cities leveled. We were clearly losing this war and we were forced to take shelter in the marshes, the wreckage of our society. With the Oghmaites essentially defeated, Vecna and his people ruled for hundreds of years until in-fighting destroyed them. Kas betrayed Vecna, as their kind was wont to do. Vecna was said to have ascended to godhood, while Kas was eventually defeated by other Black Water Vecnites. Petty rulers have watched over this land and hunted us down for many hundreds of years since then.

Our prophecies say that an ancient artifact lies in the Grand Temple of The Whispered One, one of the many ziggurats that dot our land that were once great libraries and places of learning. If this artifact can be brought to bear against our enemies, our prophesies say that Oghmaites may restore our lost kingdom, and with proper humility, rule for thousands of years.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Last Chance Inn

Using sail and oar, the party made their way up the Erath River until they came to a fork. The Erath continued northward, but the waters were treacherous and unnavigable. A Western fork was more navigable, proven by the various river boats that could be seen going up and down the river. At the fork was a riverfront inn, called The Last Chance.

At the inn's dock, various traders from the West sold their wares, and the party bought and sold goods for their journey. Once inside the inn, the party met the proprietor, a beautiful drow named Lenova. Also in the inn were two tattooed Madu traders, the older Vati and the younger Dika. Nearby at Korem Rell, a jeweler, and his two female bodyguards. Two other men sat near the front door but would only grunt when spoken to.

As the weather outside worsened, the inn shook with the wind and rain. Strange howls could be heard outside and the two silent patrons went over and opened the front door. The party confronted them and things turned violent. The silent ones attacked the party, slipping out of their skin and reveailing themselves as vile aberrations. As they struck party members, they took on their appearances, and when struck or healed, the stolen party member took equal amounts of damage and healing. Worse, a giant brute of an aberration appeared in the doorway and stalked inside, attacking the patrons.

The foulspawn were eventually defeated, but it took the help of the two bodyguards and the innkeeper to drive them away. The innkeeper changed shape herself during the fight, but she wished to downplay her abilities. In the end, it was clear who could be trusted to pull their weight, who would likely run at the first sign of danger, and who would help if only given the opportunity.

The party left the inn after receiving payment from Korem Rell, including the help of his bodyguards. The two Madu traders promised hospitality when the party reached Cullen, their northern village up river. Lenova declined to go, but promised to be of assitance in the future, if she was needed.

The party proceeded into the river valley, the river and road framed by tall cliffs. Eventually they came to a bridge and a small dwarven stone building. The sign on the bridge said it was closed and the small dwarven building offered a riddle in dwarvish. The party easily answered the riddle and proceeded into the building, which held nothing but a staircase going down. The staircase led to a large chamber with a door across from it and another on the left. The floor was covered in river sand. As they proceeded into the room, they were attacked by a sand golem. It completely ignored the party's dwarf, but it endeavored to slay all others. Eventually it was defeated and party continued to investigate. The side door revealed a trap room that contained a thunderblast cyclone contained in a cylinder of water. It was a trap against those who crossed the bridge above. A simple lever disabled it.

The dwarven village was their next stop. As they approached, they noticed corpses littering the streets. The bodies were partially disolved and kobold tracks could be seen in the dirt. They heard a bell tolling and headed to the towns cathedral. A strange sense of wrongness pervaded the down, and reality shifted in and out of focus. Something is in the cathedral....