Dead Gods Rising
Session #1 The chill fall breeze blowing through the empty branches of the borderland forests did little to dampen the spirits of the Sul-Aras. This clear evening found the “Wind Deer” clan readying themselves for the upcoming performances and “trade” that would take place in the nearby town of Oakdale the next day. As preparations were completed and the performers put the finishing touches on their acts, a banquet of “slightly aged beef” stew was prepared and shared amongst the families. As the bowls were emptied of stew, they were refilled with wine and ale obtained from the last town the caravan had visited. As was customary amongst these carefree people, music and dancing soon filled the chilled night air.
As the daughter of one of the lead actors of the caravan, the half elf Rowan Dawn Strider was always one to participate in the nightly dances, if not one to overly partake of the libations. As she danced and made merry around the camp’s sizeable bonfire with her racial half-cousins, a strange sensation overcame her and she staggered out of step with the young elf she was dancing with. Thinking her to be drunk,, the elf laughed and danced on while she was overcome by a vision from the Goddess of Insight and Dreams, Untanmo. In her vision, she saw the Tir’ran she danced with encircled and shacked by chains of fire that arose from the bonfire. She watched in horror as her half-family members screamed and writhed as they were slowly burned and forced to dance faster and more erratically by their unearthly shackles. As quickly as it had begun, the vision ended. Rowan, not prone to frequent visions, though a follower of Untanmo, was left somewhat taken aback as her friends and family continued to dance around her as if nothing had happened. The clan’s most gifted seer, Nienna Miriel was the only one to notice her discomfort. Though Miriel did not see the vision herself, she had sensed the whisperings of Untanmo within the camp. Rowan explained the vision, but neither of the women could determine the underlying meaning, if any.
Allorellan, adopted son of the clan Ada, Angrod Heylan maintained his customary and aloof distance from the revelries of his adopted people. Even amongst these outcasts of society, Allorellan never felt accepted due to his unknown parentage and unusual physical appearance. Some saw him as a lost child, worthy of the clan’s sympathy. Others saw him as a hanger-on and leech of the community. Few actually accepted him as one of their own
As he enjoyed the cool night air on the edge of the camp, he noticed a strange raven intently watching him. After a few caws, the raven flapped its wings and flew into the night shadows of the forest. Allorelan’s sharp eyes noted that a peculiar smoke or after image, shadow made tangible, was left in the trail of the bird’s movements. Considering this strange creature, he was too distracted to notice that he was the focus of a prank played upon him by the clan’s children who had plucked one of his feathers. The child made rooster and chicken noises as he ran away and held his prize aloft to the delight of his playmates
Allorellan’s anger at the children’s taunting was abated as his adoptive father, who had witnessed the event, calmed him and discussed his place among the clan. Allorellan then went in search of Rowan, the clan’s wilderness expert to discuss the strange bird.
Elithar, one of the “Death Singers” or Lome Linod of the Sul’Aras had no desire to participate in the night’s revelries. Indeed, his chosen vocation rarely gained him so much as a polite nod from his clansmen even during the most festive of occasions. Distracting his mind from pleasant memories of revelries enjoyed before donning the mask of the Death Singers, he busied himself with capturing fireflies for use as spell components at a nearby spring. While enjoying the calm of the night, he came across a young Tir’Ran boy who was crying. The boy’s older brother, Tibius and his friend Tallen had run off to investigate the town of Oakdale without him earlier in the day, but should have returned by dinner time. Showing an unexpected amount of friendliness and generosity to the young child, Elithar enchanted a stick to glow and instructed the child to inform his mother of his brother’s absence. The child, completely distracted by the stick ran into camp claiming to have seen the face of a Lome Linod (a complete exaggeration), something of a taboo which most believed to attract an untimely death. After realizing that the distracted child would most likely not do as told, Elithar made his way back into the camp to make the announcement himself
Elithar met up with Allorellan and Rowan as they discussed the unusual portents that they had witnessed with the clan Ada, Angrod. Elithar identified the strange bird Allorellan had seen as a shadow raven, a common familiar to hags. At this and the news of the children’s disappearance delivered by Elithar, Angrod called the clan elders together to discuss what actions should be taken. Despite contradicting protests offered up by Haldamir Taralom, an elder of the clan and avid critic of the current Ada (who is also the adoptive father of Allorellan), the clan determined that a group of scouts should be sent out to locate the children. Rowan was asked to lead the search party given her familiarity with the woods and her tracking skills. Allorellan was asked to join the party by his adoptive father as a sign of his trust in his son and because of his useful ability to fly and scout large areas of land from the air. Elithar was invited to join, fearing the worst case scenario: should the children have perished, death rites would have to be performed to ensure that their spirits were allowed to move on to the next life.
Haldamir, through thinly veiled insults, insinuated that since Rowan and Allorellan were merely adoptive members of the clan, should the worst happen , their loss would not be sorely felt by the clan. This incited Allorellan to angry words with Haldamir. The rest of the clan, unmoved by Allorellan’s harsh words bid him to be silent and to show more respect to a clan elder.
Rowan was easily able to follow the tracks of the children as they meandered their way towards the town of Oakdale. As the party neared the town, they came across signs that a recent battle between Knights of Pallindor and a gnoll war party had taken place. The bodies of the deceased had all been stripped of equipment and the carcasses left to rot. Rowan noted that the faces and foreheads of some of the gnolls had been branded with a strange mark that no one in the scouting party was familiar with. The sorcerer, Elithar thought that he had seen the sign somewhere before, but could not remember where or in what context. The symbol resembled an infinity symbol (or figure eight) on its side with an arrow pointing down bisecting it in the middle.
As the party considered this, Allorellan took flight to investigate the city from the air. To his horror, the fighting had evidently carried on into the town. A dark cloud of smoke loomed over the wrecked and smoldering buildings of the town of Oakdale. On his first pass over the town, Allorellan did not notice any signs of life, just more rotting corpses of men and gnolls. He did notice that some of the gnoll corpses had been impaled on stakes at the edge of the town square, their rotting carcasses swaying slightly in the night breeze. As he pondered who could have done this and why, he spotted a bound human male being beaten by two gnolls outside of one of the larger intact buildings in the center of town. Rage and a sense of injustice taking over, Allorellan took aim with his bow and fired on the assailants. Slightly wounded, the gnolls picked up their captive and carried him inside the building out of bow range.
The element of surprise lost, Allorellan sped back to meet up with the rest of the party as they reached the edge of town. The scouting party neared the building and a pack of gnolls rushed out to meet them and a battle ensued. Fueled by concern for the safety of the lost children and fear of the ravenous gnolls, the elven scouting party met the crude and rusty weapons of the gnolls with arrows, magic, and swords. After a pitched battle, two of the Tir’Ran scouts lay bleeding and dying as Allorellan rushed into the building. He was met by a gnoll shaman who attacked him with a spell as he fled the building with the human captive seen earlier. As Allorellan took to the air and pursued the fleeing shaman, he was struck again by the shaman’s dark magics and his muscles seized up. Completely paralyzed, the already wounded Allorellan plummeted more than 30 feet to the ground sustaining serious wounds that left him bleeding and dying.
As Rowan tended to her wounded clansmen, Elithar went in search of the missing Allorellan, who had rushed off ahead of the party. Though untrained in the healing arts, upon finding the broken form of his compatriot, Elithar miraculously stabilized Allorellan and called for Rowan’s assistance. Allorellan was brought back from the brink of death by Rowan’s skilled ministrations and prayers.
The party found the human captive that had been dropped by the gnoll shaman in its retreat and he was taken into the house and cared for by Rowan. The house showed signs of previously being used by a larger force of gnolls as a base of operations. Upon further investigation, the recently vanquished gnolls all had the strange symbol branded on their foreheads as noticed on some of the corpses outside of the village. They also noted that the gnoll corpses impaled on stakes at the edge of the town square did not have these symbols. The party surmised that there had been some infighting amongst the gnolls between two unknown factions.
Inspecting the house’s basement, the party came across a grisly scene. The cellar was full of flayed and hacked up human corpses. It had evidently been used as a slaughter house to prepare food for the gnolls. He noticed a badly abused and unconscious human male tied to a chair and brought him upstairs for Rowan to tend to. Fearing the worst, Elithar searched among the detritus and viscera and found parts of a barely recognizable small Tir’Ran corpse. At least one of the children they sought had been used to sate the gnolls fiendish appetites. However, no sign of a second child could be found in the hellish cellar.
While Elithar performed the death rites over what remained of the child’s corpse, Rowan and one of the scouts searched the ruins of the town for the remaining elf child. They found him cowering in a nearby house, in a total state of shock and mumbling incoherently about hearing the death screams of his friend. The exhausted party regrouped at the abandoned house, cared for the wounded and rested for the evening.
Reinforcements from the clan arrived partway through the night. Among the second party of rescuers were the parents of the missing children, Rowan’s father and the clan Ada, Angrod. Rowan’s father was sitting by her side when she awoke in the morning, showing an uncharacteristic amount of concern and affection. Perhaps almost losing the daughter he, until recently, never knew he had made him realize what she really meant to him. Angrod let his son know how proud he was of his actions during the preceding night, but remained largely focused on the continued safety of the clan. As always, the Tir’Ran showed great respect for the services provided by Elithar, but spoke little else to him. The mother of the slain child did however approach him and offered him an amount of gold in gratitude for his services, which he denied stating that he only performed his sworn duty.