Great Circle of the World

The Growing Power of Hendar

As me and my mortal companions traveled back to the village from the ruins, nothing truly eventful occurred. The servant of the Sun Goddess, Sarenrae, remains unconvinced, even by another god, that the goddess is willing to help protect those that truly follow her. Sometimes I remain unclear as to why these other Deities share their power with such ill believing mortals. Even as I come to my followers in a form they can comprehend they do not listen to all my teachings; and here I try to show this mortal priest that his patron wants a cleansing of the un-dead and he refuses to believe me. I do believe that the Druid is looking for my favor and I will keep a special place reserved for Harper of Discord. He served me well in this adventure, but is needed elsewhere. I should call upon the services of another in this area. The king’s royal magi wanted to inspect the god-soul that was in my possession. I tried telling them that it is the soul of the goblin-god, but they would not adhere to my words of knowledge in this area. If only these mortals truly understood the coming god-war that they are privy too. They even ignored my claims of this as a man who had fallen victim to the curses of an ancient and forgotten god laid dying and transforming before their eyes. I am merely a god of prophecy. The only reason the kinder gods wield there power is because these mortals look only to the dark gods with fear and fear makes them have hope that there must be something better. As we ventured forth into the openings from which the undead crawled from in the graveyard. We were given only a small portion of time before the town guard sealed it off from the world, as well as they should. Maybe I should show the priest what will happen to his beloved town if he does not at least try to act on the words I have spoken to him. We ventured forth into the underbelly of the graveyard, where my sense of looming evil overtook my greater senses and the foulness of it overtook my mortal shell and I vomited from being so close to it. As two shadowy creatures attacked us and enveloped the druid, I blessed the priest, since he had fallen from the tenants of the sun goddess and would not call upon her strength. He was filled with madness and proceeded to slay the foul denizens one he assisted me in smiting as we both hit it with mighty swings; the other had received grievous wounds from the enveloped druids pet wolf. The priest saw this and in a flash of lunacy grabbed the dangling visceral material and yanked the inards from the foul beast. I feel that maybe the sun goddess is losing one of her flock or that my time spent with the priest is slowly driving him to new areas of his sensibilities. He is one of the most prostrate mortals I have met, but it could be as noted that, the closeness to me and him trying to follow a deity that he has never met is taking its toll on their bonds. Maybe the other deities will follow suit and start showing their physical prowess in the world of the mortals before they too are forgotten.

Strange Company

I awoke with a start when I heard the knock at the door. The room of the inn I was in was comfortable, if not large or opulent. A feather mattress on a bed large enough for two or three people, a small washstand and stained mirror, a cracked porcelain pitcher, and small oak wardrobe were all the furnishings in the room, and a window that looked out over tight cobblestone road. Sunlight streamed in through that window, I had slept until mid-morning already. Scrabbling to my feet, I began to dress, the leathers and furs I had so long traveled in freshly washed. The knock came again softly, and with my breeches on and laced, I called for them to enter. A serving woman in her middle-years, but pretty for her age entered with head bowed and eyes low. A glance of her eyes and the flash of a smile told me the reason behind the flush in her cheeks, and I did my best to dress faster.

“Sir, the Captain wishes to speak to you and your companions downstairs when you are ready. He has had the cooks prepare breakfast.” the serving woman said with a small smile and a furtive glance between her eyelashes.

“Very well. Please inform the Captain I will be down shortly. Will you also find something for my friend?” I nodded in the direction of Winter, who merely laid with head on paws at the foot of the feather mattress, green eyes watching the serving woman impassively. The woman looked up, and let out a startled yelp. Eyes wide as teacups, she nodded once, and fled the room. Well, Winter often had that effect on people.

I finished the laces of my shirt, buckled the straps of my leather vest, and clasped my cloak of furs about my neck with the maple leaf broach. The prayer beads hung from my neck, and with a piece of hemp cord, I tied my hair back. Fishing my pipe from my vest pocket, I filled it with some of the local tabac I had put in the fine smokebox found in the wizard’s study. After a few satisfied puffs, I turned my attention to Winter.

“Shall we?” I said, pipe clamped between my teeth. Winter sprang to his feet, and together we made our way out of the room and down the narrow, curving steps into the common room below. The Wandering Jack was not the largest of inns, more suited to the warehouse workers it normally served. It was one of the few places in the city not damaged by fire and still fully staffed after the undead attack, and so had been commandeered by the commander of the Silver Shield in this area for use as his headquarters, at least until someplace more suitable was found. Still, I liked the Wandering Jack. It had a down to earth feel, none of the pompous trappings of higher tiers of society. I like things to be simple.

“I trust you slept well, Mr. Ventius?” The Captain of the Silver Shield of Crooked Creek was unmistakable in his shining breastplate, worked with simple gilding appropriate for a man of his rank, and sword and shield with the markings of the Silver Shield propped against a wall nearby. A man just past his middle-years, with wings of white at his temples, the Captain had bluff features, a hard man for a hard job. Eyes that were both intelligent and calculating watched as I set my belongings near the door and took a seat at the far end of the table. My traveling companions were also making their way to the table, which was covered with a large spread of food. Roasted quail eggs, bacon, porridge with plums, fresh crusty bread with a soft butter, and spiced wine and ale made my stomach growl in anticipation. I could see Winter already worrying the bone of what might once have been a haunch of lamb.

“As well as can be expected. And just call me Septen.” I began filling my plate, while keeping a wary eye on the guardsmen standing at attention at either exit. If the Captain decided last night’s goblin raid was our fault, things would get ugly very quickly.

“Very well, Septen. I would like to first thank you all for your assistance last night. Those..creatures..had me and my men outnumbered, and could have done a great deal more damage if not for your..intervention. Forgive me, but I have never been a man to mince words, so I will get straight to the point. How is it you were able to control the creatures?” the Captain asked, setting his fork and knife aside to fold his hands in front of his mouth. His eyes seemed to penetrate each of us, digging for the truth, and I knew that if we gave an answer he did not like, we would be in chains before lunch.

“Lord Hendar is a god!” piped Nohj, the bells of his ridiculous cap jingling. The man was handsome, and his smile winning. Many people would find themselves agreeing with this man without thinking, many women would lose their innocence to his charms, and the effect was spoiled only by the fervent light of fanaticism, or perhaps just madness, in his eyes.

“What he means to say, Captain, is that Hendar is in possession of a powerful magical object we found while exploring a nearby cavern. We found the wizard Krassus’ former laboratory, and in it this orb, which apparently has the power to entrance some creatures. Whether or not it does more, we are uncertain, but we wish to have a sage study it as soon as is possible.” I shot a warning glance to Nohj, who snapped his mouth shut, no doubt ready to proclaim the glories of the great Lord Hendar. Instead, he contented himself by beginning to juggle a half dozen quail eggs, two loaves of bread, and a crock of butter. I shook my head and continued to eat, a rueful smile on my face.

“Interesting. Very well. This brings me to the second reason I asked you here. As you know, we have had some very strange occurrences in Crooked Creek as of late. I am not very fond of strange occurrences, especially when I don’t know where or why they are happening. I do not have enough men to spare to send them gallivanting off to investigate what is happening. That is where you come in.”

Setting my utensils on my plate, I looked at the Captain with a calm but inquiring expression. This man certainly did not care to dance around the subject, straight to business he was. I liked that. Simple.

“I’ve hired your like before, adventurers and eccentrics. Unconventional, but effective. I want you to investigate the problems we have been having here, starting with the old ruins to the north. Can’t get any of the locals to get near the place.” The Captain said, with no small amount of contempt in his voice. It was apparent he lost no love for either adventurers or peasants.

With a questioning look at Julius, he shrugged slightly and adjusted his white robes before answering.

“Ghost stories mostly. People think the place is haunted by witches or ghosts, and such. A few people have disappeared up that way over the years, so nobody goes around there anymore.”

“Folktales and nonsense.” The Captain said with a shake of his head. “In any event, I can’t get any of the locals to go, especially with all that has happened. I somehow doubt ghost stories will stop you. Especially since I know exactly what language your types speak.” With a small toss, a small leather bag flew from his hand and landed on the table with a thud and clink of coins. A rather loud thud.

“One hundred gold marks if you take the job, and another hundred for each of you when you return with proof of your venture. We are not asking for you to do anything other than take a look around and gather what information you can find.” The Captain looked around the table expectantly, obviously looking for who would take the pouch and proclaim themselves leader. Nobody moved, save Nohj, whose juggling now involved knives, forks, and spoons. The jingle of his cap was the only sound for several moments.

“What of looting privileges? Do we keep what we find?” Targ asked with a challenging raise of his chin. The mercenary had an obvious dislike for authority, and had sat through the entire breakfast meeting with a scowl on his face, directing dark glances at the Captain.

“Full looting rights are yours, with the exception that any objects related to the current troubles will be used in whatever manner necessary to close the matter, and returned if able once concluded. This, of course, includes the orb you used last night.”

A flood of protests immediately sounded from around the table, with Targ going so far as to reach for Warhammer 40k at his hip. The guardsmen at the doors, who seemed so like statues before, dropped into ready stances, hands going to sword hilts. With a calm look around, I raised my hand, calling for quiet. After a few moments, everyone settled into their chairs once more, tension and unease thick in the air. I looked at Nohj, who stopped juggling, catching the final falling quail egg in his mouth, chewing with a grin.

“A contract!” He exclaimed though bits of egg. “We shall have to draw up a contract of the accord, signed, sealed, and notarized. I have a bit of experience with that you know. We will submit it to the local banker, so that both parties can be held accountable. Anyone have a pen?” The man looked around the table with an expectant grin, the bells of his cap jingling madly. For a man that played the fool most of the time, he could be unexpectedly sharp.

A clerk with the badge of the Silver Shield on his breast came running from a side room at the Captain’s barked shout, pen, paper, inkwell, sand, and sealing wax in hand. After a few words with the Captain, the clerk scribbled furiously on the paper before handing it to the Captain for review. After a curt nod, the paper made its way to Nohj, who made a few remarks to the clerk, handing the paper back to be changed. After review by the Captain once more, he grunted, took out a ring with the Shield on it, and pressed it into hot wax dribbled on the page before signing his name. I did the same with the Wolf’s head signet my father left me, and the deal was made.

“Very good. My man here will show you the way to the ruins, and ensure that my investment reaches its full potential.” With a gesture, one of the shadows near the fireplace moved, and the shortest halfling I had ever seen materialized from them. His eyes darted around the room, as if searching for threats that weren’t there, but held contempt for everything he looked at. This one could prove to be a problem, if left unwatched. Not even Winter had noticed him!

“Now, if you please, we would have that orb.” The Captain held out his hands expectantly.

“Actually, Captain, for your own safety, you might not want to touch the orb directly. It seems to have some kind of effect on those that touch it, and not always good. It may be unsafe.” Hendar said hesitantly, as he unwrapped the pulsating pink globe from his pack. His look at the globe was almost..reverent. I had a feeling that we have no idea how unsafe it really might be.

“I will judge what is or is not safe. Torven, take the orb.” With a snap of his arm in salute, one of the guardsmen near the door hurried to Hendar and reached for the orb. After a few moments hesitation, Hendar reluctantly placed the orb in the guardsmen’s hands. A shudder and look of horror, or perhaps ecstasy, passed over the man. He stood, staring into the depths of the glowing globe, enraptured.

“Torven!” the Captain said sternly, and the man, blinked and shook his head, as though coming out of a trance. Hurriedly, he saluted again and left the room. Hendar’s eyes followed, a strange look on his face. Very unsafe. Why can’t things ever stay simple?

The sun had began its long descent in the sky before we reached the ruins the small halfling was leading us to. A crumbling wall of gray stone fifty feet high reached up out of the surrounding forest, a forgotten fortress of days long past. The crenelated towers poked just above the tops of the trees, and one had fallen, collapsed with age and rot, tearing down a section of crumbling wall with it. The only sound in the air was the wind, which disturbed me more than an army of orcs would have. A forest this close should have been teeming with the sounds of life, and yet was still as death. An ill omen. I tightened my grip on the scythe in my hand, the blade gleaming in the afternoon sun that sifted through the tall trees.

Nohj had moved forward, scrambling quickly up the pitted wall to sit atop it, watching for dangers and looking for a way in. After a few moments, a balled up scrap of parchment fell at my feet. Unfolding the page, I looked at the crude map Nohj had drawn. A small keep, with a few dilapidated buildings and a courtyard, but apparently empty. I had an odd feeling that it wasn’t. Something Julius had mentioned earlier tickled in the back of my mind, but what it might be fled before I could nail it down. Dismissing the thought, I edged my way into the opening of the collapsed tower, looking for a way inside the wall, Targ close behind.

As I stepped into that darkened tunnel, the hairs on the back of my neck raised up, and with a jerk of my scythe I barely stopped the blade meant to cut my skull in half. A creature with blue-tinged skin, muscular and man-shaped, snarled wordlessly at me as I stumbled back into the sunlight. Crude weapons and rusted armor somehow gave more menace to this creature, and the half-dozen companions that came rushing from the tower entrance. With a cry of exultation, Targ charged in, swinging his warhammer wildly. Shee-Ra, Julius, and the others joined the battle with cries of their own, swords and fire pushing the beasts back before their onslaught.

As I regained my balance, I realized the fight was over. In a furious storm of deadly magics and dance of weaponry, my companions had slain all of the creatures before I could even gain my footing. A quick search of the bodies was conducted, and with a professionalism that would make any soldier jealous, we moved on.

The courtyard of the keep was overgrown with weeds, and many of the buildings already collapsed. The training ground smelled of death and decay, the murky waters of a bog having claimed it. As we moved through the inner yard, I knew I would be the only one to be able to move swiftly through the watery morass of the training yard, and began to move that way to look for evidence of darkness and evil.

As I worked my way forward through the swampy terrain, a green and decaying hand shot out from the murky depth and gripped my ankle like a vice. With a yell of surprise and horror, I tried to shake the thing loose, to no avail. Its grip like iron, it pulled on me with a strength that was unnatural. I began to slip beneath the surface, and knew that today would be the day I died. This monstrosity would drag me into the depths, and I would spend eternity weeping my deathly sorrow in the bottom of a bog.

The shaft of an arrow blossomed in the hand, and its grip loosened enough for me to pull free. I scrabbled away, back to the edge of dry land, calling on the land to aid my escape. I glanced to my left, and saw the halfling, crossbow in hand, nod at me even as he loaded another bolt. The others stood ready, watching the bog, waiting for whatever it was that had come for us this time.

Out of the morass, the bloated and hideous remains of two women, their features twisted in horrible delight even as black blood and putrid water streamed from their mouths and noses, rose into the air. Their hands, the hands that had tried to drag me to the depths, were armed with claw-like fingernails. With a hideous cry of malfeasance, they came forward to take our souls. True warriors all, my companions and I stood our ground, each determined to send these hags back to hell.

I sat around the campfire that night, smoking my pipe and listening to Nohj play a soft and soothing tune on his magical lute. Winter slept soundly near my feet, the others in their bedrolls. An owlbear pup, tamed for the moment, slept next to the snoring Hendar, his arm around the creatures body. A terrible idea, that. I had no doubt that would end poorly, but since I owed Hendar my life, I would continue to try and keep the creature from ferality. Targ slept like the dead, barely surviving the days battle, nearly drowning in that bog. Those hags had torn bloody shreds out of him, out of all of us, but we finally put them down.

I considered what the next day might hold for us, and thought I could hear the whispered future on the wind. What had caused the undead to rise? Where had the goblins in the city come from? What is that pink orb? Who had killed the man who might have known where my father is, and why? I sat, staring into the night sky, and wondered. I sat, and pondered, wondering just how many ghost stories were true.

Pet Owlbear

In the forthcoming adventure, Hender was sent with his generals to investigate some local ruins. In the search of the ruins, the Harper of Discord proved himself most worthy of being a general. He used his talents to bring greater power to the rest of the party. Hender is no longer in contact with the “godsoul” for the time being as the empirical guard wish to examine it. Hender has let it remain under their care for the time being. Now that the generals have proven themselves it may be time to find soldiers to fall under them. The Harper has out performed the Druid on several occasions and they seem to be forming a close bond. The Druid seems to be welcoming the influence of Hender. Septen (the druid), under the power of Hender, was able to bring a cub owlbear under his control as a demonstration of Hender’s power. Hender’s old traveling companions (a paladin and another druid) rejoined the party to help send a pair of Hags back to their plane. The item of most concern is the “prophet” that attacked Hender’s avatar as he was leaving town to venture to the ruins. He came into town screaming of chaos coming to destroy everyone. Hender wonders if he could be an agent of Lamashtu, driven mad to destroy the avatar of Hender for the time being or if he really was an agent of Pharsma and did not know of their closeness. If he was an agent of Pharsma then it may have just been a warning of an impending attack of Lamashtu. Maybe the new thief is an agent of Lamashtu. He was sent with us under orders of the empirical guard. Hender is curious as to what role he plays and which general he falls under. His kill count in combat suites him for the singers of woe. The sorceress, Talia, listens to the combat suggestions of Hender and her power too has risen. The priest, Julius, seems to wanting in his power. Usually priest fall under the Harper, but this one may be assigned to the Guardians in time. First thing first, get back to town and see why the “prophet” attacked the Avatar of Hender.

Forbidden town
I told you the goddess didn't want me here.

As the party made there way back into town, Hender informed them that the Goddess of the town did not want him there. Everyone seemed to be dismissing this as they encountered the Empire’s Knights and told them the town was quaranteaned. The rest saw him as being weak and convinced him that he needed to go into town. Even after he gave his follower, Targ, a list of items to retrieve for him. Upon entering town he went to the temple to make amends to the Goddess for his trespass and was attacked by the recently reanimated corpse of a townsmember in the temple while helping treat the sick and dying of a plague. Then the High priest asked that he leave. Feeling that would be fair enough since the goddess didn’t want him there in the first place, he left. Meanwhile, Septen had discovered goblins in the town. Everyone chased them to a barn and the goblins began running and frenzying. In the ensuing confusion and chaos that Hender brought about goblins were randomly dismounted from there rat-dog mounts, decided it would be best to put each other’s flaming heads out with the blades of their swords, and general bad luck. After the battle one was last alive and tortured for information that was ignored. In the middle of the night, the rest of the goblins made themselves known by setting fire to random parts of the town. Awakening from his slumber, Hender saw the condition of the town and sit outside the temple on the steps. Septen decided that this would be the moment to toss Hender the “god-soul” orb (a purple orb of energy that for some reason Hender made contact with on a mental level, Hender believes it to be the power of a fallen god) that the he had been carrying around. Upon coming into physical contact with it, it became a part of Hender(+1 hp). Then as others touched the orb while Hender held it, they were given their desires. To Targ: a better weapon for his service. To SheRa: To be gazed at longingly and naked holding her future husband. To Talia: A deep slumber that escapes her. Now Hender must marry off SheRa to his other followers but only after annointing them as generals of his army. SheRa: General to the Singers of Woe. Targ: General of the Blind Guardians. A special appointed Bard will be Hender’s grand general to the Harpers of the Unknown.

Session 2
..and the dead shall walk amongst the living.

“We commit his body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, looking for the glorious hope that the gods shall return us to their bosom, that we may live amongst them in the planes of the hereafter. Take your son Gareth into your arms, most beneficent ones, and guide him into the next life. Gods be praised.”

The old priest lowered his arms, clutching the symbol of his faith to his chest. He held to his rituals, he and his young acolyte, like men desperately grasping a log to avoid being swept away in a flood. I had no need for such things. Nature is a capricious mistress, taking as she sees fit, and giving when least expected. I knew that upon my death, my life force would return to Nature, to sustain her and give new life to another. Still, I let the old man say his words. His beliefs were not my concern today.

I had left immediately when I received the message, deep in the northern reaches of Bel-dan, in a small village just off the coast of the icy seas. I have no idea how the man found me, how he got there, or where he disappeared to after delivering his message. His message told me all I needed to know. Word of my father, after almost five years of nothing. Five years of wandering, aiding small villages with blights and droughts, feral animal attacks, anything that might garner good will and aid in my search. I gathered my meager belongings and set off to the south, to find this man Gareth and learn his price for the information promised.

I traveled for a month or more, avoiding roads and villages, keeping to the simple quiet serenity of the wilds. My companion Winter seemed almost as eager to be there as I, pushing long into the night on our daily trek. I wonder if we would have been so eager if we knew what was awaiting us.

Crooked Creek was what the people of Austair called the small city we finally came to. Crowded, loud, full of people, this was the last place I wanted to be. Winter refused to follow for nearly two days, and even when he entered the city with me, his hackles remained raised for at least three hours. He can be such a baby sometimes.

We attempted to locate the man Gareth, but his home was locked and shuttered, and no one would respond to my hails. Traveling to a nearby inn, I thought to ask if any knew where I might find the man and perhaps purchase a hot meal.

The inside of the inn was dominated by a large great room, crackling fire warming the dozen or so patrons far less than the pungently spiced whiskey most seemed to be drinking. A quick glance around the room told me I was in strange company. A man of obvious martial prowess, with the swagger only a sellsword can manage, the confidence of someone who knows that the weapon at their side is all they will need should their words offend. A woman, beautiful, in a silk gown of a red so livid as to seem almost ablaze, and the blood of elves in her veins. A cleric, made obvious by his proudly displayed fire-drop holy symbol, robes with embroidered flames and the white of the healer. Strange people to be found in such a place, though no stranger than a half-blood human with a wolf for a friend, I supposed.

The meal I ordered was simple, but filling. Roasted chicken with leeks, a hot stew of potatoes and kingsgrass, and a steaming goblet of spiced mead took the edge off of my travels, while an old haunch of mutton distracted Winter long enough he forgot to keep his hackles raised. I ate heartily, and while I sopped the grease of the chicken from my plate with a heel of stale bread, the man with the sellsword swagger kicked the chair across from me out and plopped down, armor clanking as he regarded me with head cocked and an insolent smirk on his face.

“Mighty fine animal you have there. What is he, Dire Wolf? Mighty savage, those can be. Takes a special breed to tame one of those. So let me guess, you are one of those tree-hugging pointy ears, right? What in the thirty-two hells of Hender are you doing in a muddy stinkhole like this?” the sellsword said, his relaxed pose belying the firm look in his eyes.

I considered the man before me for a moment before simply nodding my head. Winter, whose attentions had been solely on worrying the bone between his paws, had sat staring at the man with ears flattened since he had sat down. With a small gesture, he returned to his bone, splintering it with loud cracking sounds.

“I’m here to find a man named Gareth. Know him?” I said, leaning back in my chair. My scythe, a worn but still wickedly sharp two foot piece of curved steel atop a five foot staff of ironoak, stood across the room at the door, the sellsword between me and it. I would have to rely on the Kimbara , two sickle-like swords strapped in ornate sheaths crossed on my back, should this become trouble.

“Hah! I thought that might be why you were here. He hire you too? Bastard promised work, then like a halfling in-law disappears without a word with my money! I should have known better than to come out to this cesspit. Should have stayed on the border. Always good money for a merc willing to fight orcs, y’know? Steady work too, with those savages. Ol’ Warhammer 40k here has kicked apart more than a few of those Greengos!” the man said with a pat on the head of the warhammer slung on his belt.

I relaxed. I couldn’t say why, but I liked this man, and his rough and crude mannerisms. This was a man that looked out for number one, not caring about the politics or consequences of the fight, merely for the fight itself. I could appreciate that simplicity.


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