The Emperor's War

Catch & Release

Session 1

Ah, hello there weary travelers. Please, take a seat, drink some mead, and unwind with a story. A story filled with daring heroes, unsurpassed cunning, and shapeless evil. A story where steel and magic clash and arrows fly across battlefields. But more than anything, a story that indeed happened, centuries ago, on this very continent.

I know you must be tired, so I’ll pass where our heroes came from and start from the point when the fates must have decided to act; the point where our heroes met. It was not at a glamorous castle of a king, nor in a unanimous act of bravery, not even in a tavern such as this. No, they met in a much more unlikely place- as slaves aboard the orcish caravans, back when the orcs were a more unruly bunch.

You see, it was a time of war on this continent, and three main armies were at war. You had, as they were called back then, the Empire, the Independent Kingdoms, and the Republic. Their fighting with each other gave the orcs an opportunity to strike, and so they did. And they did so in unison! This was back at a time where orcs were scattered tribes, as ready to kill each other as they were to attack a trade caravan. But one tribe had been able to unite the rest, then known as the Wave of Steel. Any tribe who didn’t join up with the Wave got destroyed and taken as slaves. All but one, it seems, who feigned interest just long enough.

Enter the Bloodsworn tribe, the first of the, err… civil tribes. They wanted above all, peace and harmony with others. They wished to remain secluded as well, and as such the people at the time were probably very well happy with that sentiment. But, it is because of the Bloodsworn tribe, and their leader, Red, that our heroes were saved from the chopping block. The Wave had captured our heroes and were transporting them to be executed. Why didn’t they just kill them you ask? The Wave made a show of their executions, for entertainment, and as a message to the other peoples of the world.

The Bloodsworn, who at least believed in giving their captives a fighting chance, purchased our heroes as well as the old man who was held with them in the caravan. Although our heroes couldn’t have known it then, Red has truly hoped these were the heroes his shaman had prophesied about a week prior. Red’s shaman, Frayok, has foretold these heroes and the Wave caravan being where it did, and it also foretold of their future deeds. Upon hearing these, Red was ready to pay their cost.

When the heroes arrived at the Bloodsworn camp in the center of a forest, they were shown to dark chambers before being brought to a gladiator arena to fight for the entertainment of the orcs. Shackled to each other were our heroes, left to fight against a band of gnolls who had foolishly attacked the bloodsworn.

Ah, what’s that? I didn’t reveal our heroes yet? Ah, of course I forgot something! Well, let’s take care of this now…

First, we have the honorable Olysio, a sailor turned paladin, sworn to uphold values and morals over coin and greed. An aasimar, his celestial blood surely helped him shape who he was and guided his conscience.

Next, we have the mighty Grognak, a goliath fighter, taken from his home at a young age. All too familiar with arena battles, his life has been one long duel. He had become very strong, even among goliaths.

Then another goliath, a warlock named Gauthak. From an entirely different tribe and part of the continent, Gauthak invokes the power of a greater being into twisted magics. Given a second chance at life, his path is one of vengeance for his fallen tribe.

Fourth, we have the halfling, Milo. A bard by nature, he found his innate musical magics at a young age and set out to better his life and his family’s. Despite being a small halfling in a big world, none could argue his bravery exceeded even those of the largest being.

And finally, we have Zilver, the deep gnome rogue. Though, they prefer to go by their proper name, the svirfneblin. A scoundrel from below ground, his heart differs from those around them as he seeks adventure above ground. His motives, at this point, are still a bit mysterious, but he knows he must survive.

Now, where were we… ah yes! The arena, and the gnolls. Despite being chained together, our heroes easily took out the viscous beasts and broke their chains. The crowd cheered wildly, for they did not care which side won the battle. And the cheers grew even louder, when an ogre stormed the arena. The ogre, captured from the wave, proved to be a bit more of a challenge to our bruised heroes. But, as all heroes do, they persevered and came out on top of the slain ogre. The crowd cheered frantically, until Grognak threw one of the gnolls’ spears into the crowd in an act of disapproval.

The rest of our group, thinking that their new found ally had just doomed them, feared what may happen now. But, their worries were for naught, as Red was as understanding as he was wise. He would forgive the transgression, and would not only free our heroes and return their belongings, but also pay them if they helped. Reluctantly our heroes agreed to listen to Red’s offer. He told them that if they could clear a cave of goblins working for the Wave of Steel he would point them towards the nearest town, in addition to the payment, and freedom, he was giving them.

Our heroes agreed, and only quickly contemplated going about their way until they realized they may get lost in the forest and run out of food. So they continued on to the cave where Red said the goblins had been, looking to not only take out a common enemy, but to also work their way home.

The travel to the cave was short and without incident. They could hear goblins inside, and a quick peek from the shorter members of the group confirmed a decent number inside the first chamber of the cave, sitting at tables in chairs, some playing cards and others eating or drinking.

Now, before we continue, I have to bring to your attention a fact about goblins back then versus goblins as you know them today. Today, goblins are crafty little creatures constantly springing traps and using pact tactics. Back then, they were rather… intellectually disadvantaged. I bring this point up, because otherwise the story may be a bit hard to believe.

So, outside of the cave were a few bushes, and one conveniently placed tree. And our heroes, for the first time able to formulate a plan, crafted a plan that allowed them to easily kill every goblin one by one. Please, let this picture paint itself in your mind. Our warlock, Gauthak? He used his innate ability to speak telepathically to other creatures, and he spoke goblin. He started with one goblin, calling to it to come outside and around the tree for some treasure. Now, any other person would bring up to their companions a voice in their head, but the density and greed of these goblins of centuries past made this one slip out.

Now, on either side of the entrance, behind bushes, knelt our gnome and halfling, each holding the end of a rope camouflaged by the tall grass growing near the mouth of the cave. Well, pulling on either end of the rope caused the goblin to take a fall, and resulted in an eruption of goblin laughter from inside the cave. The goblin, somewhat embarrassed, picked itself up and continue around to the back of the large tree. What awaited it, was Olysio grabbing it while Grognak snapped its neck.

I wish I could elaborate how our heroes then charged in at the weakened goblin numbers, but alas, that is not how this happened. They group repeated this telepath-trip-snap tactic on literally the entire first chamber, none of the goblins ever suspecting a thing until they were down to two. And even then, with every goblin tripping, none of them, not even the last two though to try and step over. However, as you might have guessed, when the last two got up and went around the tree Olysio and Grognak were there and snapped their necks.

Once inside the first chamber, our heroes saw three distinct doors in front of them. They spread out and inspected each of the doors. Goblin murmuring could be heard behind all three doors. The middle door was locked, so they decided to investigate the side doors first. On either side, more goblins occupied rooms. To the left was sleeping goblins which were slain, never waking to the intruders. One keen eyed hero noticed a strange brick, revealing a secret room. The dust and cobwebs showed that perhaps even the goblins had not been aware of this chamber, and the party was rewarded with potions of healing and a magical ring of indeterminate power. To the right, were goblins in a kitchen cooking up some food. Not quite as alarmed as they should have been, the deceptive warlock said they were merely visitors and convinced them to share their meal. Not long after, they were slain.

Now, from the kitchen was another room, with a lone chest in the middle. Not caring to disarm any traps, the chest was opened, blades shot out, but a slightly bloodier hero grabbed the key to the middle door.

Now, I will spoil, there is only one room left- that one through the middle door. But our heroes, cunning and all, set up a similar trap. Once the door was opened and Grognak saw he was surrounded after rushing inside, he fell back through the door where the goblins tripped over yet more rope held by the smaller members of the party and cut down. From here a skirmish erupted with the boss of the goblins and his few remaining men against our heroes. At the end, we saw the boss cut down, and a few close calls with our heroes, blood spilling on the floor. But, as the fates would have it, their wounds healed, and they left the cave triumphantly. And, with heavier pockets as well. While they picked up any coin from the fallen goblins, they too found a magical rod, from which a voice called to the warlock Gauthak. Upon picking it up, he felt his dark bonds strengthen and his twisted magic bolster.

After a slower, but steady trek back to the Bloodsworn tribe, the group came across the strangest sight. Camels! Camels as far as the eye could see, with the orcish warriors and villagers mounted on them and playing with them. They were quickly welcomed back by Red, who upon closer inspection suggested they stay one more evening at the village before heading off. And then, the old man who had been bought with them showed up, his dark skin and grisly hair cleaned and refreshed. Instead of rags he were rich robes unlike those worn or seen around here. He brought forth for each hero an appropriately sized camel, before riding off with a huge herd of them. Before heading to bed, they thought what a bizarre happening, but deep down they were sure this wasn’t the last they were going to see of Crazy Hassan.

And that, my road-worn friends, is the first part of this saga. Oh, you want more? Ah, well I frequent this tavern often. Catch me again while you’re in town and I will tell you more about our heroes, and of the Emperor’s War.

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Naggash

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