Dust & Blood

Lorne 001

After traveling from Nibenay to Tyr with my fellow Gladiator mates for another match I decided to wander and see if I could find more information about my past. I went to the Elven market to ask about the black sand that I woke up in last year and in trying to get information from them I found myself talked into running a few errands to prove myself. I should have known I was going to be profiled and captured. Now I find myself a slave again like when I first made my way into Nibenay. Fortunately, it seems I might be given the chance to fight in the ring instead of lugging rocks all day. Sadly, I will be fighting my own mates once again. First step is to fight my way out of here, second is to find out who I am.

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Letters From Camp
journal entry
This the fourth day of Sorrow, in the Year of the
Priest’s Defiance of the One Hundred Ninetieth
King’s Age

To my dear and loving Uncle,

At long last my travels have lead me to the City of Tyr. I find the city under the grip of the Witch-King Kalak, and in a frenzy of enterprise. I was very impressed with the markets, bazaars, and caravans; both for the wares that were available for trade, and the tradesmen who owned them. Never-the-less, the city is an abattoir of filth and desecration where sentient life trades for little and less than a handful of grain or coin. Tyr is dominated by the tower of Kalak and its vassal structures, none so impending than the ziggurat in the center of town. A colossal structure of brick and blood, the ziggurat is near completion and the templars of Kalak have been furiously driving their chattel to finish the project post haste. What has caused this current wellspring of industry is unclear, only that the overseers appear compelled to squeeze every ounce of vitality from their charges so as to complete this monstrosity before the month’s end. A cruelty I can attest to first hand by the whip of one such catspaw of Kalak, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Having little to my name beyond the equipment I had on my back, I had planned on singing for my supper at a certain wine shop off the main square of the merchant district. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Honeyed Kank? In either event I was just settling in when templars charged into the Kank, weapons drawn and looking to expand the ranks of their slave labor force. Upon the flimsiest of pretexts, some supposed runaway girl, they proceeded to shackle the entire room ankle to ankle and cart us off to the pits.

It is from here I pen this letter, with the ichor of an eviscerated reptile upon a scrap of leather, with the hope that it finds you quickly. I have been deprived of my sword and my bow, and my shirt of bones, but not of my wits. Already I know more of this town and its denizens than I did a week ago. I have been charged to fight in the glorious gladiatorial matches to honor His Majesty Kalak. And I’ve met some interesting characters amongst the falsely imprisoned and destitute, none of whom I would endanger by writing of herein. Suffice to say that I may have found some friends in this city, friendship I hope will prove more valuable than iron.

I dare not write more, lest this note fall into perilous attention. However, dear Uncle, tell my family that I am come into the Kingdom of Kalak, the City of Tyr, am alive and well. Though currently play-acting this charade of enslavement, this too shall pass, and soon we shall see the revelations of the prophecy come into being.

As-Salamu Alaykum,

Ja’Amun

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Z'hrina: Session 001
A Strange New World

After only a day in the city, I managed to find another Thri-Kreen, become a slave, and meet a draj and dras. The pits are peculiar. They feed us a sustenance called, “gruel”. It is provided and while the humans do not seem to enjoy it they prefer it to the reptiles found in the holes in the ground where they throw us for “punishment”. The food I ate while in the cramped hole was the best I’ve had since I arrived here.

I have made progress in what I think is understanding this society. Many fights break out at night after work. Instead of letting the strong and weak sort it among themselves the drajs and drass often interfere on the side of the weak. This confused me for days and I have pondered why one might do as such. By understanding this I have be able to understand their society better. Perhaps they make up for their lack of physical strength by working as a group but that does not explain why they would take on ones so weak. It seems they would still want the strongest. Perhaps, these individuals are not as weak as they seem that their function is different. My middle arms are “weaker” than those I fight with, yet they serve an important function of dexterity, Maybe, these weak individuals are like my middle arms. Hmmm…. More information is needed and I will track it down like it was an injured silt runner.

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Session 001 Recap

Greetings Players —

Thanks for an awesome game last night, I think we’re off to a good start! Here’s a quick list of notes and an opportunity for bonus experience.

  • I’ve updated the main wiki page with links to placeholder pages for NPCs that were encountered last session. Feel free to create wiki pages for any of these characters and fill them with your own notes. Our campaign wiki is considered to be from the perspective of the PCs, so it will get fleshed out based on campaign events.
  • An in character journal entry posted to this Adventure Log recapping events from the previous session will earn you +100 XP. A good paragraph or two is long enough, and it can focus on a specific event from the previous session. Linking to wiki pages for the NPCs when their names are mentioned is nice if you feel like it! In general, I’d like to see any insight into evolving character goals and priorities.
  • The map of Tyr on the Maps page has been updated with markers linking to wiki pages for locations that were visited in the last session. Expect to see this update after each session.
  • Stay tuned to the Adventure Log for another “rumors in the slave pits” thread this week.
  • This is not required, but some forum-based roleplay (fluff only) on our campaign forum will definitely be responded to by myself daily if anyone wants to initiate it. Just create a thread and set the scene of the interaction you’d like to initiate — for example, perhaps Lorne shares tales of gladiatorial exploits with Lissan and the other gladiatorial initiates during a cold night in the Tyr Slave Pits. Or perhaps Zhrina seeks to learn more about Chch’kraran and his reasons for being in Tyr. Please create an appropriately named thread for each individual scene. Each scene will be resolved accompanied by notice from GM of a small XP reward.
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Rumors on the Tyrian Streets

GM Notes: Summary of information freely spoken about around the streets of Tyr.

“King Kalak is planning a great arena spectacle very soon. The most famous gladiators of Tyr will compete. The entire city will shut down for the festival!”

“If you want spell components, go to the blue-and white-striped tent at the back of the Elven market. They’ll take care of you.”

“A lot of folks have disappeared lately… don’t know why, but I don’t like it.”

“In Lord Kalak’s palace, the doors are solid iron and he’s filled a whole room of the Golden Tower with smelted iron.”

“Steer clear of the templars of the King’s Works. High Templar Doreen has become a shrieking tembo about this ziggurat thing and they’ll take it out on anyone.”

“If you’re looking for supplies, you might visit the Inn of the Bleached Inix.”

“When they were digging a new cistern for Senator Minval, the slaves broke into a huge underground chamber. Not long afterward, the templars showed up and ordered the hole sealed and the villa razed to the ground. After that, they marched off every one of Minval’s slaves to work on the ziggurat.”

“I hear the arena’s looking for new gladiators.”

“Kank honey is going to be rationed soon, might be a chance to make a killing.”

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Approaching Tyr

GM Notes: Below text introduces Tyr in the current time of the game, which I’ve decided to set before King Kalak’s fall. Please read this and familiarize yourself with the city map uploaded to the Maps page before our next session.

For over a millennium, Tyr has stood.

During the past thousand years, the city has labored beneath the oppressive eye of Kalak, Tyrant of Tyr. Under the fearful shadow of his defiling magic, Tyr has festered from a small oasis settlement to a sprawling and corrupt metropolis. Renown for wealth, power, and a steady though meager production of iron, Tyr is perhaps the most decadent city state in a decadent land. Here, where human life counts less than a drop of water, a person can buy anything and suffer any fate.

All but the poorest Tyrians own slaves and nobles tend vast plantations by the lash. Indeed, slaves outnumber freemen two-to-one within the brutal city of Tyr.

As you approach the city, you pass through verdant plantation-lands where crops receive more water than the unnumbered slaves who tend them. These fortress plantations belong to the city’s nobles and garner great wealth for them by providing nearly all of Tyr’s food. Standing armies fiercely guard each plot of land.

Once within the gates of Tyr, the throng of odd caravans, tang of exotic foods, and heady rattle of strange dialects unsettles you: Every Athasian city state follows unique laws and customs. Those unfamiliar with the ways of Tyr may run afoul of its templars or, worse yet, Kalak himself.

King Kalak, Lord Kalak, Tyrant of Tyr, he goes by many names. Defiant Tyrians mock their lord (when shielded from his psionically-enhanced senses) with the title “Kalak the Diminutive”, for Kalak’s ancient body is horribly wizened, gaunt, emaciate, and puny. This dry husk of flesh, though, channels unimaginable power: Kalak holds Tyr in an iron grip. His mind is said to roam the city, dealing death for the slightest offense.

As in most Athasian cities, the sorcerer king leaves day-to-day business to templars, his faithful. On the streets, the black cassocks and imperious manners of templars set them apart from other Tyrians. These men and women wield great power, checked only when their actions might offend Kalak, a superior templar, or a noble. Tyrians generally avoid templars, who, on the slightest whim, can imprison slaves and citizens alike. Of late, the templars of Tyr have been preoccupied, spending their careers upon Kalak’s massive public works.

Indeed, for the past 20 years, the templars’ lives have centered on a huge stack of stone, King Kalak’s ziggurat. Dominating the center of the city, the square-stepped tower rises in sharp-edged splendor over the neighboring slums. Only now, after 20 years of construction, does the ziggurat near completion. For two decades, lash striped slaves have borne massive blocks into place and mortared them together with their own blood. Now the streets and markets of Tyr ring with rumors that King Kalak has commanded his templars to finish it before month’s end.

No rumors tell why dread Kalak is building the ziggurat and dark looks dissuade those who may ask.

Beside the ziggurat stands a familiar sight, a gladiatorial arena. Here Kalak holds epics of blood-sport, and on rare occasions comes himself to hear the sanguine roars of the populace. A box seat at one end of the arena allows King Kalak to view the battles, well removed from the filthy rabble. Most of the time, though, Kalak remains hidden deep within his Golden Tower.

This tower lies off the arena’s other side (opposite the Ziggurat), rising from the center of Kalak’s palace. Lush gardens crowd the tower’s base, a green paradise from which Kalak’s defiler magic leeches its power.

Beyond the garden lies a clutter of buildings and colonnades where only King Kalak and his six high templars may walk. Few others summoned here ever emerge again.

On the outer periphery of the sorcerer king’s grounds rests the templar quarter. Templars dwell in happy seclusion from the populace, both to signify their privilege and to safeguard their lives. Greatly feared and little loved, if templars lived among the people, murder and riot would become commonplace. For their own protection, the templars draw together in pampered security. The best foods, goods, and services can be routinely had in the Templar’s Quarter, but only a fool-hardy or dazzling thief would dare tread within the compound.

The details of the Golden Tower and the templar quarter, however, come to you only through rumor. Any steps you tread in those high halls may well be your last.

Rather, the sights and sounds and smells of Tyr that work upon you come from the massive gates, bustling markets, bawdy streets, vermin-ridden slums, crowded merchant houses, and polished noble quarters.

You enter Tyr through the caravan quarter, where strange outlanders and plodding merchant caravans clog the streets. The main avenue, called Caravan Way, winds toward Kalak’s ziggurat and supports caravansaries, outfitters, beast traders, inns, merchant houses, and wine shops. The assortment of goods and services here is good, though they come at a premium price. The caravan quarter bustles both night and day and is well patrolled; merchants pay the templars dearly for protection.

The caravan quarter butts up against the noble quarter. Here, nobles keep small, walled citadels, complete with slave quarters, gardens, guardhouses, and private apartments. Most of the nobles wisely contribute generous sums to the city coffers: those who do receive preferential protection from the half-giant patrols of the templars. Few nobles actually reside within the city walls, where their private armies are forbidden, preferring to pass their time on estates outside the walls.

A few townhouses lie scattered in other areas of Tyr. Some such villas were constructed by rising sons of old families while others have been relocated by Kalak, himself, to chastise particular noble houses. Whatever their origin, these islands of wealth provide prime targets to thieves and thugs. Tradesman reside in the next lower niche in Tyrian culture. Tradesmen’s districts spread across various sections of the city, home to most of the Tyrian citizenry.

Tradesmen occupy the uncomfortable cusp between slaves and freemen: though bound to a particular noble house and occupation, they possess minor rights to property and protection. A street in a tradesmen’s district will house the practitioners of a single craft or the craftsmen of a particular noble. These districts are Tyr’s monetary badlands, they hold little to steal and even less to buy or trade.

You can hardly spend a day in Tyr without passing sometime through the warrens, the slum quarter, which gives Tyr much of its infamy. This vast crumbling sprawl houses the impoverished, the desperate, the outcast, and the enslaved. Many residents of the warrens work as day laborers, setting out each morning to seek work on the plantations. More desperate occupants might even sell themselves at the slave market near the dust-choked wadi. Others turn to theft or murder for hire. Those incapable of work, even illegal work, beg door-to-door. One way or another, these oppressed people glean enough food and water to live another day. What little extra they might own comes from hard labor in sweatshop shanties at night. Life in the warrens is brutal and unforgiving.

The darkest section in the warrens is the elven quarter. Treated as near-criminal outcasts by the rest of Tyr, the elves have settled their own portion of the slums, closer to the base of the ziggurat than others would find comfortable. Here they live, little bothered by templars or nobles, who consider them inconsequential vermin. Runaways, rebels, and murderers all find shelter in the narrow streets of the elven quarter. When the templars stage their rare incursions into the elven quarter, they go heavily armed, with a squad of half-giant guards at their heels. The elven quarter gives the slum its true notoriety. Here, you can literally buy or sell anything, if you have the coin or charisma to do so. Elven merchants boast that they will someday sell even the bones of your grandmother on a back street of the elven market. Indeed, they may already have. This trading acumen both sustains and justifies the elven quarter. The canny elves bring in exotic and sometimes priceless items from the ruins in the wilderness, items prized by Tyrian nobles. Even so, a deal struck in the elven quarter is anything but sure, for thieves, muggers, renegade wizards, and swindlers abound. A 50% markdown little compensates a buyer who loses his life.

Now, armed with knowledge gleaned in an hour upon the Tyrian streets, you set out to explore the brutal city of Tyr. Of course, much of the knowledge came in rumor rather than fact.

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