June 2002 – Rehash (This rehash encompasses multiple sessions)

 

A little more than two weeks past, in the 824th year since the Devastation that brought the Ken Empire to ashes, a non-descript group of naïve adventurers crossed the Troos and headed into the Wounded Land. The land had been called the Flower of the North, green Tristram Province, with it’s rolling plains, deep forests, broad rivers…sprinkled throughout, the pastoral villages and elegant cities of the Yrken. The heirs of Ambrose, living in hard-won peace, the Charnish barbarians long since driven back to their borders, the mad southerner King Laertes’ lecherous grip removed with force of arms. A republic had formed, led by the bastard Eracusin, Lord Protector of the North. The wisdom of the best Yrken minds formed the Protector’s council. The mailed fist of General Prava, deemed by both friend and foe alike the greatest commander of arms since Ambrit himself, formed the muscle to enact the Protector’s wishes. For a while, men hoped that the dream of peace had become reality.

 

Then the Eldren came, and the Flower of the North became the Wounded Land in a storm of blood and fire. But this is history long past, and described better by others.

 

For our focus is on non-descript naïve adventurers, and though their tale may be of interest to none, it is our task to depict it. It’s a living.

 

Misled by the Duke’s man, Brax, our heroes penetrated farther into the Wounded Land than any in recent memory…indeed, farther than they had intended. Nevertheless, whether through sheer brilliance or fortuitous bungling, they had not only survived but compiled a record that would astound their sponsor, Count Ector, in the unlikely event he ever heard of it…despite losing the Duke’s trail, they had observed knights bearing the arms of the Order of the True Ambrose yielding assistance to the Duke…they had removed the curse and puzzled out the riddles of the Tower of Malvagel, yielding priceless artifacts from the 2nd Eldren War…they had collectively soiled themselves yet still somehow managed to defeat an Eldren demon in open battle. As to the spectacle of an Eldren building ships in the midst of a forest hundreds of miles from the sea? Who could know the mind of a demon?

 

Perhaps weary, perhaps overly trusting, perhaps even more naïve than has been indicated previously, perhaps just a bunch of freaking…ahem…the chronicles do not say why they chose to trust Yosh, only of the consequence. Never again would our heroes take the word of any being in the Wounded Land for granted. At least not until the next time. But short of food, wounded and weary, our brave band…Dross, Tenax, Leviticus, Archimedes, and the recently “rescued” Seanee followed the affable Southern adventurer to Durum village where he claimed rest could be found. Indeed, it sounded like a haven…led by a charismatic man known as Geoff, Yosh went so far as to promise sound sleep and good food. Our non-descript naïve adventurers could hardly know they would come in the same steaming bowl…

 

But do not disparage our brave band. Yosh had prepared them for the village…a collection of invalids and cripples, driven from North Yrkenland by their own communities. Many veterans of the Eldren Wars awaited them at the village of Durum. Indeed, our heroes showed great respect when the village leader, Geoff, asked them to avoid use of magic in the village to avoid scaring his flock. When Old Max, a seeming wise man asked them to keep weapons stowed to avoid exciting the children, the stalwart group solemnly agreed. When cackling Sylvie eyed them with her one good eye and shriveled, gray…other eye…and offered them stew in a ceremonial Welcome Bowl, all but dour Dross had the good manners to enjoy the meal. Indeed, when an old soldier missing a leg hobbled by with “EVIL CULTIST” branded on his forehead our heroes politely looked the other way.

 

Did the chronicles mention they were naïve? Just checking…

 

But how were our heroes to know of the Cult of Tharizdun? Historians and other non-productive types tell us that the Cult amused even the Imperial academics and other Imperial non-productive types. With their god magically chained and enslaved like all the others by the Penta of the Emperor, the Cult yet persisted. After the Devastation, the Cult fed on the hordes of lost souls as ferociously as a starving non-descript naïve adventurer devours his last maggot-ridden piece of salt pork…that is to say, with great effectiveness. Even in these enlightened times, rumors of the Cult persist, and the crippled are looked at askance. An entire village of maimed folk were looked at quite askancely…but our brave band was a trusting sort, and soon found themselves in the clutches of the Cult.

 

Dross’s mistrust, though scathingly impolite, was surprisingly well thought out…waking to find his comrades sleeping deeply, he sought to free his fellows, but though valiant simply could not handle the single surprised cripple he battled. Things looked grim for our stalwart adventurers as they awoke, disarmed, chained to wooden crosses. Before them, the entire village, chanting, following Geoff as he led a ceremony that described all too clearly…indeed, in armor-soiling detail, had our heroes armor not been taken…what would become of our brave band. They were to be maimed, slowly, carefully, with love. In time, they would realize the Truth of their Worth, the Cultists promised. This chronicle does not record what the brave band thought of their worth at that time, but we can project they were somewhat nervous.

 

The chronicles also do not tell all of how our heroes escaped certain maiming…all that is known for sure is that devout Seanee was the first to free himself. Battle raged for more than an hour, and blood covered the floor of the meeting hall. Our brave band tore through the Cultists like highly trained adventurers executing helpless cripples, retreating from none, no matter how harmless or defenseless they may be. 

 

When Geoff fell for the final time, Yosh blinked and cursed in a most ingracious manner, proclaiming that he had been charmed, and was a Royal Blademaster. Archimedes, examining the scorch marks on Yosh and other comrade’s chests from his own magic missiles, concurred and declared him a good egg. Their morale broken, the Cultists ran, abandoning the strongly walled blockhouse to our brave band. Or, more accurately, crawled, scuttled, limped, etc.

 

A tense standoff ensued, and though historians will never write of it, the battle between a hundred crippled invalids and a few non-descript naïve adventurers was epic in nature. The cold tactics of Yosh, the sly maneuverings of Dross, the stoic bravery of Seanee, the mental power of Leviticus, the deadly stealth of Tenax, the wanton destructiveness of Archimedes…the helpless lurching about of the crippled Cultists…all played an equal role. A much greater role was played by the recovery of our stalwart band’s equipment and the release of the imprisoned Ambrosian priest Mir…but in the end, our heroes knew victory.

 

Not to be forgotten though is the surprise role of the crashing charge of elite Ambrosian knights, who tore through the Cultists as if they were crippled, defenseless invalids, driving them pell-mell from the field when our heroes were surrounded and in bad straits. But of more import?

 

Very few put any faith in the tale, but it is said that as Archimedes sprayed fog over the battlefield, a female figure was seen flying away in the light of burning buildings. It is said that fey Tenax himself confronted the cackling Sylvie, and before his eyes she did transform from an evil old hag into an Eldren demon, winged and profane in her delight at the slaughter.

 

But few put much stock in the tales of non-descript naïve adventurers, for they are prone to boastfulness and exaggeration.

 

Seventeen days in the Wounded Land, and the sun sets to the sound of galloping warhorses as Ambrosian knights charge through waves of fog, destroying what Cultists they can find. Yosh stands alone, panting, blade red to the hilt, bleeding from a dozen wounds. A strange light is in his eyes as the knights thunder to and fro. Burning houses illumine the rolling fog with an eerie orange glow, and corpses litter the streets. The echoes of musical Eldren laughter echo from high above…

 

Above all, our brave band is pleased to still have eyes with which to see such sights, ears to hear the sounds, and Yosh’s ale to at least attempt to drown the memories of the village of Durum.