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Campaign: Shadows Over Sharguul

Started by Verzan, February 04, 2021, 12:13:42 AM

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Shadowlands Campaign: A night at the Theatre?

After all we had been through in the lands of Maldraxxus it was hard to believe what Matriarch Longhand was saying when she invited us to the Star Lake Amphitheatre. Really? A night to watch actors tell us stories, a chance to armour off and be entertained by the natives of Ardenweald.
It was a welcome piece of respite. Though few orcs dressed down for the occasion, it seemed only Karak Stormsong had thought to fetch his silks and formal attire to the shadowlands at all. It was no less welcome by all, as we headed from the casual bar where only a night or so previous we had been speaking with the Astral Order, through the crowds and claimed ourselves a prominent seating arrangement toward the middle center.

The stage was an open amphitheatre wreathed in long willow strands of blue leafed vines that tickled the tops of the tallest orcs heads. The furniture was carved timbers and wood, seeming to still be growing despite its new role as table and chair. The stage itself was illuminated by a great many dancing lights, as if tenders had trained the bioluminescent plants to focus their glow where it was needed most.


Slowly they twinkled and illuminated the stage before us, there was a hush of the audience. The show had begun, the stage was transformed by magical illusion and clever prop placement and before our eyes we saw a disturbingly familiar scene. Bones rattled the floor of the stage as a single goat-person stood heavily armoured in a wood, wielding a crystalline halberd. He remains at the center of the stage despite walking, his surroundings changing about him.
When a narrator's voice booms loudly for all to hear ‘We follow our brave hero of the Wild Hunt, who has found himself lost in the nightmarish realm of those terrorising the Weald, having valiantly chased after the evil-doers who have been defiling our groves!’

Though many were watching the show and listening to the rather pertinent story of the night, there seemed to be other noises carried between the bows of the twilight trees. The sound of fighting, was this part of the story being told?
It seemed to coincide with the hero on the stage beginning to fight and cut down a number of twisted tree creatures that appear with masterful puffs of purple smoke for him to cut down. The narrator spoke again ‘But long has he walked, seemingly in circles… Many has he slain, but greatly does he now tire!. Mighty in physical strength is he but magical he is not. Through his foes own dark rituals does he return to the Weald, ready to bring retribution?’

What was this story suggesting?
The hero drops into a crouch and now sneaks along through the dark woods depicted upon the stage, he approaches a group of tree creatures guarding what appears to be an open portal. He chops them into fire wood with several dramatic thrusts and the lights grow dim.

When the lights return the stage has changed before our eyes, illusionary scenery has changed to show the forest as the main hero stumbles out of a portal, above the slain body of another creature. All about him upon the stage is fighting, he has emerged out into a battle as the masked ones attack the Wild Hunt defenders.
‘Finding himself in the midst of ongoing battle, our brave hero leaps into the fray, cutting down those who would bring us harm for their own gain!’ the narrator speaks again, the hero upon the stage matching the spoken words with flourishes of skill and violence against their enemies.

Again the sounds of battle are couriered to us by the gentle breeze. There is fighting upon the stage for certain but we are orcs and fighting is in our blood, the sounds coming our way seemed a little too real to be a performance surely?
‘Pressed on all sides our hero and his allies fend off the attackers with zeal’ the Narrator speaks and the orcs are calmed for a moment, even as the performance expands into the nearby crowd. An action that seems to come quite the surprise to those watching as if it isn't normal but they accept it as a new spicey addition to the show, feigning fear and rescuing their mid show beverages.
Lights are hurriedly shone upon the fighting in the audience. As if those controlling them were unprepared and yet the show must go on.


Fighting continues within the theatre as those upon the stage defeat their opponents in gloriously flamboyant shows of skill, yet those who fight among the crowd are less victorious. Their mashed enemies seem to be pressing heavily toward the crowd. The two depictions do not seem to match up?
Gatran Felhammer gets up from his seat and begins to weave through the crowd politely to try and investigate what is going on while Thronk, confused by this mismatching performance, picks up a smooth blue pebble from the ground and hurls it at the masked fighters. His rock hits and the ‘actor’ collapses to the floor, their head split open and bleeding.
Stormsong scolds the giant ‘Now you’ve killed an actor! We’re going to get kicked out!’ he shouts angrily. There is a terrible gasp from the audience, a gasp that wasn’t supposed to be there yet - those on the stage pause to peer at what is happening.
Actual murderous violence is happening as those among the crowds seem to have been discovered and begin to lash out at the crowds. The Audience up sticks and begin to panic, numerous night fae begin to try and escape the invaders and crowd toward the western side of the Ampitheatre.

While the orcs and defenders seem to have other plans.
Rykana Skywise calls for the orcs to arm themselves and make ready for battle. As the surge of panicked audience members begin to push past them buffeting the orcs and knocking Halfbuk over.
Enrah pushes into the crowd and snatches one of the attackers from assaulting an audience member with a death grip, hurling them toward her and knocking several escaping patrons over in the process. The Ebon Knight holds the squirming goat-person aloft, warning the other orcs that the mask this one wears is real, it is bathed in the magic of death.

With the weapons the orcs have they engage the enemy, taking them down with a flurry of ranged attacks as the audience clears out through the western exit. But they do not hold in the stands, hurriedly the Red Blade rush to the eastern exit from the Amphitheatre. Stepping over the bodies of the fallen and moving toward where the sounds of conflict continue.
A dozen or so masked raiders assault the Wild Hunt guards on the outside of the amphitheatre and as quickly as the orcs got to the eastern exit they ran again back into the fighting to aid the Wild Hunt. Enrah and Thronk charged into the melee while the rest threw ranged attacks at the enemy.
The barrage of unholy magic, arrows, axes and blade turned the fight and the Wild Hunt finished off their attackers. Though bloodied it seemed most had made it through the battle and their Captain paused to speak with the orcs. Explaining that they had been chasing the raiders all the way from the Fenn, they would never have stopped them getting into the Amphitheater if it had not been for the orcs cutting them off.
The Captain seemed weary, attacks had been on the increase becoming more bold and close to the heart of the forest. This was simply one of many bold attacks they were facing, he could not even fault the orcs who had believed them to be performers. Even Matriarch Longhand seemed to scold herself inwardly for not realising the situation within Ardenweald itself.

Skywise asked the captain if the Red Blade could investigate further the site at the Fenn where the masked raiders had come from. The Captain agreed but warned the orcs they were to see a grisly sight.


The walk was long and uneventful, discussions focused on the information the Astral Order had told the orcs. Were the masked ones creatures known as ‘Drust’, they did not have answers. Here and there along the trail were the bodies of the unlucky who had stood in the way of the raid.
When close to Dreamsong Fenn the Captain called a halt. Before the orcs lay the ruined remains of one of the winged night fae. She had been disemboweled much like the fae had been in the vision the orcs had seen. Cold dead eyes peering lifelessly upwards into the twilight trees. Surrounded by a circle of runes and other small ritualistic fetishes of grisly construction.

‘Through those they slay they perform their rites and open gateways to their realm. They used this settlement as a staging ground to open a number of portals and it was a mere stepping stone for their attack upon the theatre, I am sure you can imagine what would have happened had they reached the audience you were part of’ The Captain added darkly before granting the Red Blade the opportunity to remain in the area now it was secure.

As he left, Enrah began to examine the body of one of the fallen, taking note of runic markings and discussing what needed to be done with Matriarch Longhand.
The Deathwalker seemed certain she could use the runes and grisly ritual again with her unholy magic, repurposing the enemies portal gateway to allow the clan to pass through into the realm of the Drust, just like the hero had in the play we had watched that very night. It would be a grim feat but necessary, though she would need a sacrifice much like they had used to power the gateway.
Longhand was quick to suggest an alternative to night fae the Drust had gutted, offering the idea of hunting one of the greater beasts that roamed within the forest - this seemed to give the orcs some sense of direction.

We would hunt a great beast of the Forest of Ardenweald, utilising it in an unholy ritual that would open a gateway through to the nightmare realm of the Drust. There we would surely find the trail of blood from Sharguul’s wounds that would lead us to him and ultimately to his rescue from these masked terrors.
Our mission here finally seemed to be drawing toward its final battle.
We can only hope we reach Sharguul in time.



Shadowlands Campaign: The Blighted Land

Chieftain led the hunt through the wondrous forest of Ardenweald, it had been chosen that we would hunt for a creature blighted already by the magic of the Drust. Rumors from Matriarch Longhand suggested there were huge toads at one corner of the fen who had become violent and aggressive toward the citizens of the forest and though many did not directly want to end the lives of the beasts without need - our need tonight was serious. With time against us we had to act, there was no other way and at least we would remove another Drust threat from the area.

So we hunted for the giant angry toads and it was not too long before the forest song became that of toady chorus and flowing water. As hunt leader the Chieftain stalked ahead to confirm what lay ahead. The rest of the orcs waited in the nearby hedges and tall plants when suddenly there came a cry-- ‘Get over here! We got ourselves a big one!’

The hunting party dashed up the hill to a sight few orcs could believe.
Many simply stared slack jawed for a moment as before their eyes the Chieftain appeared to straddle the back of an enormous leaping toad. This creature was easily as large at the shoulder as a clefthoof and just as wide, seeming grafted to its face was a wooden mask and upon its back a flailing Chieftain being bucked and thrown around like a dashing Wolfking cloak, though he did not release his grasp of the creature.

The huge beast stampeded toward the Red Blade, smashing through the group in several frenzied bounds and fighting followed in its wake. Hunters shot arrows, avoiding hits against their own Chieftain while melee combatants splashed into the shallows of a sparkling stream. In the next moment the creature was thrashing orcs with its tongue, its rampage quite a bit less humorous than it had seemed at first glance. The bruises were very real and the danger.
When suddenly the New Blood Drastal Halfbuk kicks off. Realising what is to become of the toad too late to change its fate, he loudly protests the creature becoming a sacrifice for an evil ritual to fetch the clan to the realm of the Drust. Believing in his core that there had to be another way only to be firmly corrected by the orcs about him that there were no other choices.

The fighting continues as does the argument. Halfbuk is told the mask upon the toads face has sealed its fate, it is a dangerous creature here in Ardenweald. It has to be put down one way or another. It just happens to be useful to the clan at this time.
As this happens a combined effort of unholy magic and melee aggression binds the toad to the spot. The orcs quickly swarm to grab it and take it down. Enrah the deathwalker grabbing its tongue as Rykana Skywise fires a wyvern sting poisoned arrow into the limb seeming to paralyze it, allowing the Ebon Knight to wide it in like rope before finishing the beast with a killing blow to the eye.


The orcs moved its body to the shore and began to prepare their own version of the ritual circle the Drust had created around the night fae’s corpse mere nights ago. It was a grim business as the collected animal bones were scattered and dark runic markings painted around the circle under the direction of the deathwalker Enrah. She had spent the time preparing and could now put the work into dark practice - even the deathwalker seemed to dislike the Drust magic.

The toad's belly was ripped open by the runeblade as the markings upon the ground glew vivid cyan, fuelled by anima power from Matriarch Longhand. Eerie and dark the ritual was primitive and bloody even if the words spoken were of duty and bold threats against those who would endanger the great spirits of the clan.
At its climax the Enrah sought more power but Longhand kept the deathwalker’s hunger in check and the stream of anima steady so as not to disrupt the portal's opening. It opens slowly pooling like black treacle around the corpse of the disemboweled beast.

A dark gateway to ‘Thros’, the nightmare realm of the Drust.
Heroically the clan passed through the portal.


Darkness engulfed the orcs, thick black darkness that let you feel your footsteps before you but removed every hint of direction. The only certainty that came with every step taken was that it was one further away from the serenity of Ardenweald.
As dim grey light finally met each orcs face, we knew that we had arrived in the land of nightmares. A faint mist clug about our knees and the plant life seemed stuck in a twilight of autumnal hues and lingering decay. Gnarled trees hung overhead and the faintest hint of amber sunlight fought to get through their canopy.
Effigies and nooses hung from their branches like warning totems against any who might set foot in this cursed landscape. Even the air itself was heavy with an earthy scented oppressive aura, constantly pressing against each orcs mind as they stepped onwards.

We had arrived but we had no trail though many could recall the visions of Sharguul running through this forest, being attacked by the Drust and bleeding. Trackers took point ahead of the group searching for signs of this battle while others guarded their backs, casting a cautious eye over the nearby forest floor. Nothing felt safe here, distant calls sounded between the trees and none could be sure if they were animal, bird or monstrosity.

It did not take long before the orcs located a set of torn apart bodies and then another set. Each seeming to paint a story of plant monsters attacking a beast that would rip them to pieces if they fell within its jaws. Sharguul.


The trail continued and orcs followed it in earnest, passing under black twisted branches and cawing raven calls before rounding a corner and appearing by a strange site. Rune carved pillars of stone stood like guardians over a gristly altar marked bloody with sacrifice and ritual. A still wet knife had been discarded next to human remains, even though the magic was fading it seemed worthy of the orcs' notice and drew them in like moths.
No sooner had we approached than suddenly, from the earth around us, twisted willowy plant-like constructs emerged. Already alert many were not caught off guard though and quickly moved to dispatch these hexed monsters before they even got to their feet. The ambush had failed to fool the Red Blade.

Through the mist many orcs reported hearing voices, some louder than others and familiar and though the Varog’gor Throatrender warned them her warnings fell upon deaf ears as some dashed toward the noise. Scaling the slope of a nearby leafy hill and rushing down the otherside into an eerie forest basin below.

Boots splash into dark water shrouded by the mist at the bottom. Shadows lurk under the bows of an enormous gnarled old tree growing fatly around another stone altar that sits at the middle of the basin. Focus is not upon the tree but a message each orc hears. Friends, loved ones, family. Each vision is unique to those who can see it. Tugging at the heart as it manipulates those listening to lower their guard. Then ambush again!

Willowy creatures made of wicker and spite grab for each orc, wrestling them into the waters or dirt the top of the slope. Grabbing for their faces to force a Drust mask upon them.
Some are not so easily fooled, their loved ones speaking words that make no sense and the ambush fails as they lash out at the creatures, dispatching them quickly but others are thrown into the waters completely unprepared. Half drowning and pushing up to escape right into the incoming facial coverings.
Karak Stormsong, wearing his sorrow like armour, is taken quickly by the monsters, a mask thrown over his face that none can stop, even with the efforts of Throatrenders arrows to try and halt it. A narrow miss that cut his cheek but could not save him from the madness the mask inflicted. Alone, Karak stands dripping in fetid waters, he lashes out striking his son and hurling the boy away before violently attacking the nearest orc, Throatrender, with fury as he seems to lose his mind and the mask takes hold.

For a moment it seems the clan will fall, too many becoming overpowered by monsters and then just as quickly as hope was lost those who were quick to shrug away their manipulators rallied to save the others, the giant Thronk leaping up the hill to save both Felhammer and Skywise. Even Shrewd rushed to save the ancestor Matriarch Longhand.
It had been close, perhaps a little too close.


Fighting now seemed inevitable for every step taken in this realm of Nightmares, as the orcs secure Karak before he could hurt any more. Halfbuk tries to fix him but it seems impossible. Perhaps he was too far gone? And many braced for the terrors that would come next.
They were not waiting long before being greeted by the sounds of another nearby conflict and then the loud and piercing howl of a wolf not too far away. Could this be who they are searching for or simply another illusion preying upon their hearts desires.

They hurry onwards through the murk and before them the unmistakable sight of a Great Spirit can be seen. Taller than any natural wolf in the realms of the living, incorporeal and shadowy in nature. Its fur seemingly black yet spectral. It was Sharguul and he was fighting yet, as the orcs rushed toward him, he made a tactical retreat moving away retreating deeper into the forest.
Following at a pace the Red Blade continue to fight the wicker pursuers, cutting them down with flame, axe and blade. Holding nothing back as they advance toward Sharguul, who himself seems to take down two or three of his attackers, before it seems the willowy monsters realise the futility of their efforts and retreat back into the dark woods all around.

There is a moment of peace and the blackfur takes a moment to catch his breath. He is bloodied and weakened by the relentless attacks seeming no less appreciative of the Red Blades sudden arrival.
Many orcs explain the situation to him as young Keshrakk steps forward clutching the scarlet coloured amulet the orcs had chosen from the Broker E’on. The child holds it out and the magic within seems to take effect, swirling brightly around Sharguul to mend his wounds and revitalise the spirit.
Power restored somewhat, Sharguul bids the orcs his gratitude for the rescue, approving of their resilience against the harshness of the nightmare realm and then laying eyes upon Karak, who had perhaps fared the worst. Manhandled by the Chieftain to be deposited in front of the great spirit, it seemed Sharguul had strength now to aid him. Using his magic to destroy and remove the mask that twisted Karak’s mind, freeing him of the Drust curse before it could fully consume him.


With all of the orcs mended, Sharguul spoke with them at length...

“This is a realm of nightmare. Of horrors made manifest. This one has never lived, so this one has never learned what it is like to have dreams or nightmares. For you, however… this place preys upon your deepest fears and doubts.
This one does not know how much time has passed since this one has been pulled into this realm. It feels like this one has been fighting back against their hunt for aeons now. Ever attempting to elude their efforts to overwhelm...chased around in circles.

These beasts -the Drust- they have been draining and taking the wild spirits from Ardenweald to empower themselves. So too did they seek to overcome this one.

They are usually not able to operate beyond their realm like this. Someone - or something - must be aiding them to grant them this influence. But this one does not know who or what. This one cannot pierce the veil of this realm after they have sought to bait this one with the souls of Red Blades of the past.

So many realms traversed and perils faced to come to this one's side. It is humbling, given this one’s nature. This one wishes it did not need to come to this but its gratitude is nonetheless great for each and everyone of you.

This one has ensured all of the Red Blade have been taken from this realm and all that remains is us. Now we may fight back to escape this realm for good. But first. We must gather your strength for now. We may set up camp here to recover and this one shall remain by your side. When we are prepared this one shall conjure up the strength to get us all out of this realm.”

And once the wolf had spoken the orcs were led to a nearby hidden nook.
It would be safe for a short rest, he would hold back the mists and monsters for a time, obscuring the orcs before they would next be able to move out. Though it was clear very few found any rest at all, even under Sharguul’s protection.