Ground Zero

Empress to the Orc Nation! or not.

Prologue: Encounter with the Hooded Ones

We are at the World Serpent’s Inn. Maxximus is returning to our table after a visit with Struva. In front of him are a bunch of 5 of Tharziduun’s khelmane and a 6th person hidden in a hood. Maxximus feels a faint awareness that there is someone nearby — like the “buzz” in Highlander.

The five khelmane and the hooded guy sit at a table. An adventuring group lead by a cleric of Pholtus head toward that table. The cleric tells the khelmane to leave. Strega, the former Valkyrie who now runs the bar, warns everyone that fighting is not permitted in. The cleric
pulls the hood back from the hooded guy and then stumbles back in horror. The now unhooded man says “You will never sleep again.” and rehoods himself. The Pholtus cleric’s group leaves the bar area. Then a hooded female shows up in the bar and the khelmane and the hooded man leave with her.

As a bit of background: Only gods originally ascended from the Prime Material Plane can have their holy warriors (khelmane) show up on the Prime Material Plane. At least that was true when Fate was living in the World Serpent Inn. Who knows if that is true now? The gods we
know of that ascended from the Prime include Iuz, Sym, Hexus and various members of the Company of Seven such as Zagig, Keoghtom, Murlynd, Nolzur, Tasha/Iggwilv, Quaal, and Heward.

The Orcish Empire:

When Maxximus and Samshee investigated the Pomarj before, they found that Turosh Mak (a half orc) was having astonishing, unprecedented success uniting the tribes of orcs and half orcs and other humanoids. Turosh Mam’s two lieutenants are G’nort (half orc, half hill giant)
and G’rowl (half orc, half gnoll). The priests that surround Turosh Mac are priests of Lugrash. In the orcish pantheon, Grummsh is the chief and Lugrash is Grummsh’s strategist.

We ask Vijay what he might know about Samshee and her history that might explain why she had khelmane chasing her on the Prime Material Plane. Vijay thinks that Turosh Mak is Samshee’s father. Someone learned this fact and was trying to capture Samshee to use in a plot involving Turosh Mak.

Samshee thinks she can do best by revealing her kinship directly to Turosh Mak and the fact that someone was trying to capture her probably to use her against him. We think we might be able to get an audience with Turosh Mak by impersonating a hogoblin leader. We go to
Highport, near the Pomarj, and Anatoli makes us look like a hobgoblin caravan. We ride into hobgoblin territory with a wagon of beer laced with a mild sleep poison. We make our way to the camp of Ulan, and give out “free samples” of the beer we are trying to sell. The hobgoblins have a party. Maxximus has fun drinking and wenching. Some fall asleep from the beer. Aldeberon’s Sleep spell takes out some more. Samshee’s sap knocks out Ulan, the leader of this group. We pop the 12 highest ranked members of the group into Anatoli’s bag
(Bucknard’s Purse). Aldeberon Shapechanges into Ulan, and we walk out, looking like Ulan and his lieutenants. He tells anyone who asks that he is going for more beer and he will be back when he is ready.

Jet takes a Malta’s Carpet and Walks Through Trees to get near Turosh Mak’s court. The rest of the party Malta to join her. Anatoli makes us look like the 12 highest ranked members of Ulan’s clan. Al, of course, still looks like Ulan. We make our way into camp and G’rowl eventually finds us and asks our business. Al says we are there to discuss an alliance with Turosh Mac. G’rowl will only let a “few” of us in. Anatoli stays out in the outer area to maintain the illusion of the large entourage. The rest of us go in.

Al (as Ulan) negotiates a treaty with Turosh Mac – Turosh’s support against the other hobgoblins and recognition of Ulan’s territory as covering all territory held by other hobgoblins in exchange for Ulan’s support in Turosh’s campaigns. Ulan also agrees to pay taxes.

When the agreement is reached, Al gets close enough to whisper to Turosh that he has a secret to share. Turosh and Al and Samshee and G’rowl go into a private room and Al reveals that Samshee is Turosh’s daughter. Turosh is impressed because he knows Al is not Ulan, and he thinks Samshee manipulated Al into setting this up. Samshee describes the khelmane who were chasing her in Greyhawk. Turosh identifies the symbol on those khelmane as Clabash, a tribal insignia of orcs loyal to Sym. Turosh suggests that Samshee publically announce her lineage in front of the orcs. That would give her the protection of his name.
He also suggests that she could stay there and spend time with her people.

Back in the main room, Maxximus gets into a brawl with 15 or so orcs. He easily defeats them and goes back to drinking and wenching.

Turosh sends Al back out to the main room to have some private time with Samshee. He congratulates Samshee on her successful manipulation of “Ulan”. He knows that the real Ulan would never have dared to come here after sending Turosh’s envoys back with their eyes gouged out. Turosh offers Samshee a bone necklace with the symbol of House Mak. He
promises to tell his agents to leave Samshee alone.

Turosh offers us the hospitality of his camp. We go to a tent. Anatoli checks the bone necklace with True Sight. It appears to be a holy item of Grummsh.

Al uses Shapechange to investigate the camp as dog, orc, bat, and invisible stalker. He sees nothing unusual except Turosh’s magic spear.

Maxximus also takes a look around. His Detect Magic reveals that all twelve of Turosh’s generals have some kind of magic effect. Also, the generals’ tents all have some magic wards. G’rowl’s tent has a much stronger ward than the generals – the ward of a 9th level cleric.
Talking to the generals, Maxximus finds that each general was defeated by Turosh using a magic spear. The wound that each got from that spear has never healed.

Jet tries Commune with Nature. Nature asks permission to establish an orcish druid, since no other race stays in the area. Jet remembers her own long-ago decision to expel the orcs from her after Sym’s death directly from Grummsh’s hands. She decides she should demonstrate
that she does accept the orcs now as fully equal to the other sentient races and agrees to permit orcish druids.

Turosh invites Samshee back to his tent to discuss family matters. Jet tells Samshee that she will keep a surreptitious (shape-changed) eye on their meeting as a safety net to ensure nothing happens against Samshee’s will. Samshee goes over to Turosh’s tent. He pours her
some wine, pays her somecompliments. She asks about his spear. He says is is the Tear of Grummsh. It formed when Grummsh’s eye was destroyed by Corellon. It will kill any elf it touches. He says he also has another spear, which he hints is kept hidden by his brothers.
She asks how he came to be so powerful. He cuts his palm with a stone knife and drips his blood into a goblet. He adds some wine and offers her the blood-laced drink. He tells her it is addictive. She drinks. She does not remember what happens next.

When she wakes up a few hours later, she is naked and euphoric. She has a few cuts and bites. Turosh is sitting some distance away, clothed, staring at her. He says he is impressed by her strength and resiliency. He offers her a 1000 orcs bowing down. She says she is
not excited by that. He asks her what she wants and she feels some pressure in her head. He invites her to stay in his camp until she figures out what she wants. He says that the blood drink proved she was of the blood of the tribe Mac, since she did not die. He knows
she is not his daughter, because the pull is too strong. However, he thinks this is an advantage.

Samshee asks Turosh Mac for more of his blood to feed her wailing club. He leaves her a small vial of blood and tells her to talk to G’rowl who would be delighted to bless and seal her club.

She goes to visit G’rowl to ask for help with her club. G’rowl says she needs a high priest of Grummsh, and he is not a high priest of Grummsh. He still has both eyes, even though he wears an eyepatch that he pulls down to examine the club.

G’rowl tells G’nort that Samshee is family. G’nort hugs her. G’rowl promises to find her a high priest of Grummsh.

Samshee rejoins our group. Jet reports on what happened while she spied on the meeting of Samshee and Turosh. After drinking the blood, Samshee’s eyes turned red black and she attacked him ferociously with feet and teeth. He defended himself. She then kissed him and started to take her clothes off. He started to move toward the bed. She collapsed unconscious. After a little while, she woke up and attacked him again. Again he defended. Again, she kissed him. He started to respond and she went unconscious again. This happened one more time. He seemed to be waiting for something dramatic to happen, but it
didn’t. Its worth nothing that during their encounter Samshee bit Turosh’s right arm deeply enough to leave a wou**nd. She also at some point bit her own arm. She was slightly bezerk at times.

We head out. We drop the hobgoblins back at their own camp. Samshee put a couple of drops of Turosh’s blood on her club. A blood line forms. She talks to Fuqua (Sym’s orc shaman) and he senses something different about her. He tells her to keep her club nearby because she is now irresistable to orcs. He thinks a priest blessed her. She tells him about drinking Turosh’s blood. He tells her this is an orcish ritual to share the power in the blood. He also tells her that if she gets a priest to bless her club, she should afterwards bash
that priests head in. She gives her club to Fuqua and he chants over it. She thinks the club now feels good in her hands. He says he has to do some research, but he thinks he could seal the club, but it would be slower than if a priest of Grummsh did it.

Tharzidun Has Arisen:

Maxximus notices his Cold Obsidian rods need recharging from Tharzidun’s Obelisk. He last charged them at the Obelisk at the tom of Maxximilian Thornblade’s Mother, Ehlyssa Ironblade. We go there to find an encampment of khelmane around the Obelisk. The khelmane have apparently disassembled Alyssa’s house and used the parts to build the camp.

The khelmane explain that Tharzidun awoke a few months ago. He has risen to establish the balance. They explain that Tharzidun has been misunderstood because he originally allied with evil powers to take out the good powers who were ascendant. When evil became in
ascendence, he started taking out evil powers. All he wanted to do was just maintain the balance.

Jet suspects that the time of the awakening of all these old sleeping god corresponds to Fate leaving the World Serpent Inn.

Maxximus goes into the room with the Obelisk. It is very cold, so he puts on his robes from Tharzidun’s temple. He touches his rods to the Obelisk and they are recharged. He kneels and meditates on the words of the priests. The supplicants around the obelisk are praying and he recognizes that all the worshipers have an overpowering hatred of something and want redress for the injustice that they have suffered. All worshipers have a rod of Cold Obsidian in front of them, but none of the rods are charged. In one corner, a diaper-clad old man in a huge metal horned helmet mumbles that the dark lord has returned. Dark incense is being burned in this room.

A priest tells us that Ehlyssa Ironblade’s grave has been moved. We know that Alyssa Ironblade had one son (Maximilien B. Thornblade) by her elven lover (Gideon Oakthorn) and another son (Oyo) by her human lover (Malachi). Malachi was a priest of Tharzidun, who sacrified Oyo to attempt to resurrect Tharzidun. Alyssa now has a massive mausoleum decorated with Alyssa’s art and filled with the smoke of more dark incense. The inscription on her tomb now reads, “Here lies the Holy Mother, Alyssa Ironblade, who bore both sons of Tharzidun.” Maxximus feels that the tomb is warm in the otherwise freezing mausoleum.

A hooded priest shows up. He gives Maxx the same “buzz” of awareness as the hooded guy in the World Serpent Inn. He lifts his hood. It is Antarcus, the anti-ranger whose previous appears drove Maxximus to homicidal fury. Now, Maxximus does not feel that rage. Antarcus greets Maxximus pleasantly. Maxximus asks Antarcus for his story. Antarcus says he lost his goddess’ favor because he murdered a man to get that man’s wife. Antarcus’ goddess (Beory) refused to allow Antarcus to atone. Antarcus no longer hates other rangers. Now he hates Beory. When Tharzidun manifests, Tharzidun will teach Antarcus (and the other knights of the Asitheri) how to kill gods. Tharzidun will have justice for his millenia of imprisonment. (Note: The foes of the Asitheri are the J’dai. Yes, gentle readers, this is a Sith vs Jedi grudge match.)

We head back to the World Serpent’s Inn. We take a look at the wall of gods. In the area of the sleeping gods, Tharzidun’s “picture” has disappeared. In a different area, a new unlabeled picture of a faceless swordsman has appeared.

Eight khelmane have a table in the Inn. On the table is more burning dark incense. Samshee goes over there, and at first feels the cold. However, one of the khelmane says she is balanced, and the cold sensation disappears. Samshee sits and talks to them for a long time.
Jet is astonished because khelmane have never before had personalities, individualized appearances, or casual conversations. Jet finds this to be beyond strange.

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