After waking up from a fitful night’s sleep in a crumbling old temple, Everyone climbs onto their mounts and wagon where appropriate. Unfortunately, Regred and Nanoc have come down with some sort of cold and are alternately puking off the back of the wagon and groaning trying to get more sleep. This at least provides a little bit of sound to the otherwise near silent forest. Another days trek northeast into the forest and the group notices, they seem to be traveling along some kind of path in the forest. Instead of having to wind their way around trees, there is a clear path through them, easily wide enough for the wagon maybe even two, side-by-side.
Zubrod rides ahead, scouting for any changes in terrain, he sees the path becomes more solid, and what look like cobblestones start appearing in the ground. Soon after, he comes to the edge of the forest and finds himself looking out across a humongous ruined stone city. The remainder of the group catches up quickly to see the city. The buildings are of rough cut stone, with vines covering the walls and streets. The have stumbled upon what looks to be one of the main city streets that appears to go straight to the center of the city, where four miles distant, they see a large pyramid dominating the scene. The nearest buildings to them are only one or two stories tall, most without roofs, to their right, perhaps only a mile distant they see a tower that might be four stories tall still standing. After taking in the view while discussing what to do, they also notice a second tower similar to the first far to their left across the cityscape. Though they can find no magical residue, or traps along the road at the edge of the forest, the group decides to skirt along the edge of the city looking for the most direct route to the nearby tower.
They find an alley way the wagon will fit in that seems to be the closest entrance near the tower, and as they wind their way through the vine covered streets listening intently for any sounds. Almost to the tower, they near the exit of one of the alleyways to find a completely empty street, no vines, plants or debris on it. Even the fronts of all the buildings have been scoured clean. Looking up and down the street, they can see nothing that might have caused it, but they see the street runs straight to the tower. As they pull the wagon out of the alley and begin heading toward the tower, the group see that inside the buildings and the alleys, the vines and plants grow right up to the edge of the street then stop. The cut a few of the plants to see if there is anything special about them. They conclude there isn’t anything different, when they notice a metal helm floating about ten feet in the air.
Uncertain of what this could be, Zubrod and Ryan slowly approached on foot and just as they neared the helm, Zubrod noticed something wrong. Just in front of them, he could see the ground wobbling as he was looking through sluggish water, he pulled Ryan back just as a huge mass surged forward at them. The entire street seemed to wobble forward and once in motion, the group could see the almost transparent mass of slime filled the entire street. Quickly, the group pulled their free horses into empty buildings on the side of the street. Ryan ran back and began unhitching the horses from the wagon since the street they are on isn’t wide enough to turn around in. Ogio hopped down out of the wagon to help as Zubrod and Wikket begin firing shots into the block of slime from inside the buildings they have taken shelter. The slime advances on them and futilely tries to reach into buildings to get them, but cannot. With the horses unhitched and safe, Bellamin enlarges Ryan and with Ogio’s help, she is able to pull the loaded wagon back into a nearby alley. Bellamin cast a flaming sphere into the slime while the rest of the group continued to pelt the slime with arrows, rocks, and whatever else they have. As it slides back and forth trying to reach something, the slime begins to fall apart and eventually just collapses into a spreading puddle of nothing.
Sifting through the remains, the group pull out a bunch of arrowheads, a grappling hook Zubrod had thrown into it, and a metal helm. They pulled all the horses and the wagon out and made their way to the ruined tower. About three stories tall, they climbed up into the crumbling second floor, finding what appeared to be a ruined laboratory of some kind. Shattered glass and bowls on a stone table as well as empty book shelves, as they searched the building, they found underneath some stones a tattered and fragile book. After being examined by Zubrod and Bellamin, they figured out that it was a spellbook written in Orc. Moving it gingerly, they packed it in the wagon so that Bellamin could study it at length later.
Finding nothing else of value, the group headed north staying on the vine covered side roads and alleyways. They found numerous other ‘cleaned’ roads like the first one, but did not find any other Slime blocks. Eventually they reached the base of the pyramid, an enormous Ziggurat 300 feet tall with steps carved into the front of it. Climbing the steps brought them to a platform at the top with stadium like seating on the sides and back of the platform. Even here the vines had covered almost everything and in the seats, trees could been seen growing. In the center was a small dais with two empty pools in it, along the backside of the dais was a raised wall about 10 feet tall and in the center of the wall hung a large block of ice with a sword sticking out of it.
Stating with a surprising amount of bravery, Sandolin declared he was going to pull the sword out. No one readily jumped to disagree with him, he searched for any traps on the sword itself. About to grab the sword, Wikket stopped him for a moment, using a flask of oil, he poured directly on the ice and lit it, though the oil burned off, the ice itself did not melt. Seeing nothing else they could do, Sandolin grabbed the sword and began tugging at it, after several tries he was finally able to pull it free. In addition to seeing the blade was a Greatsword with an inscription written in Celestial which bellamin translated as “The wind of Winter blows lightly from the south”, the ice block began to rapidly melt away until a male elf fell out of the block. Laying almost motionless on the ground, he was missing his right arm but breathing. A few moments later he woke up and after getting up, he introduced himself as Van, the one-time ruler of the now-ruined city. After short discussion, Sandolin noticed a bobcat slinking out of the trees growing among the seats of the amphitheater. After casting a spell that recreated a metal-like right arm, Van took notice of him as well, complaining to the cat, asking if Van should feel grateful to him? After some more grumbling, He thanked the cat’s master, ‘Marvin’, before holding up his new arm and casting another spell merging into a flash of lightning into the sky.
Sometime during the last exchange, the cat slunk off out of sight, Zubrod and Sandolin investigated that area as Bellamin climbed to the top of the northern side. He saw two more ruined towers, one to the east and another to the north. As he looked west towards the second tower the group saw when entering the city, he also saw a large cleared space, with hundreds of brightly colored tents gathered. Calling to the others, they all went to look, Zubrod was able to identify the markings of many orc tribal clans. One thing he didn’t understand was why them seemed to be together, he said that when gathered together normally orcs only fought each other. and they would never willingly set up camps next to one another. They also spotted an all black tent near the edge of the camp, several riders were seen heading quickly towards that tent from outside the camp.
The group headed slightly north around the orc camp and made it to the western tower while discussing what to do. It was decided to camp at the tower, then check the other towers before heading south east and back towards Grice. The next morning Sandolin described having strange dreams about desolate empty locations, ruined castles and burnt out forests, ending a keep made of Ice in the middle of a desert with a huge lock on the doors to the keep. A little freaked out by the dreams and blaming the sword, he gave it to Ogio, the fact that Sandolin couldn’t even use the blade was certainly a factor as well. The group picked their way through the city to the other two towers, finding only broken stone and fragments of former use. They left the city and headed east into the forest. Trough the forest the trip was uneventful, though Ogio began having similar dreams to those described by Sandolin as well.
Once out of the forest, they made good time east on the way to Grice but found it just as empty as they had left it some 3 weeks earlier. A quick trip up to the mine north of grice revealed some disturbing results, the entire mine had been collapsed on itself. Thinking again about the encampment of Orcs, the group set off for Stalag across the plains. On watch alone one night, Zubrod saw the same floating castle in the sky, hanging there for only a few minutes before disappearing again. With no one believing him, again, they continued south until they came across a group of orcs. several wagons and a group of outriders.
The riders swung out to meet them, unfriendly and gruff they said they were moving quickly to meet up with the Hound Duke. When questioned about their business in the area by Wikket, they became restless and told him it was nothing for him to care about. Suspicious of each other, Zubrod certainly didn’t help the situation by insulting the leader and when called out by him, Zubrod moved up to the front to insult him again, the situation rapidly deteriorated into a fight. Sadly, exhausted by hard riding the Orcs were no match for the group which quickly struck down most of their fighters, when the leader attempted to run, they brought down his horse and tied him up. The rest of the caravan had redoubled their speed, so instead of chasing them, the group collected eleven of the riderless horses.
Stringing the horses together with rope from the wagon, the group traveled into the basin around Stalag. After about a days travel, with the height advantage of the wagon, they saw that Stalag itself was under siege. Hundreds and hundreds of Orc tents, many of them, the same ones seen in the ruined city. A quick discussion and the group decided there was no way to reach the could try and go around and find a way into Stalag, they worked south only see more tents ringing the city. Everyone decided it would be best to head south and try to get relief forces from Edril.
Though the week and a half of travel didn’t do the horses a great deal of good, the bags of decent feed that Ryan had brought, helped the found horses remarkably and they were actually able to sell the lot of them for a decent price. Enough to get the Sword and Helm they had found identified as well as buy an extra pearl incase they found something else.
What the group found in Edril was far more disconcerting. Edril was a city preparing for war, and it wasn’t heading north to Stalag. In their absence, the Dukes of House Black and Green had left the council, and removed all of their people from the city. Nearly one quarter of the city stood empty. After being gone so long, everyone took the time to do a bit of training and research into the events. It seemed that Black and Green had seceded from the council and were now threatening war against Edril. Criers stood on every street corner calling for volunteers for the war and bills had been posted on every empty place that could be found on walls. Every bar and tavern was filled with all manner of youth toasting each other and boasting about how many traitors they would kill.
During their training, both Ryan and Ogio were approached by older warriors asking if they planned on joining the armies in any capacity. Sandolin found that the previous residence of Duke Green was completely empty, devoid of furniture, art, or anything. The group also found that the Duke of House Gold had been made head of the army until the crisis was over and that he was mustering the army on the south fields of the city. After discussing this with some of the group, they decided to head to the training and supply fields, searching the mass tent city, they found what seemed to be a headquarters tent, but were rebuffed and directed to a nearby recruitment tent. Though apprehensive of being assigned to just regular army, Sandolin went through the basic testing for recruits, which he almost felt was a joke. He was certain that Bellamin could beat the proctor of the exam in hand-to-hand, and might have bet that Regred could too even if he was still sick in the wagon.
Pulled aside by a page, Sandolin was directed to an observer in the rear of the tent. The observer didn’t introduce himself, but asked if Sandolin was alone, or if there were other people with him. After the brief questions, he was given a note and directed to another non-descript tent with a knotted rope in three colors outside it. After finding the tent, Sandolin and Wikket went in, leaving most everyone else outside. They met with an officer in the tent, handing him the note, he opened and read it and brought the two over to a map hung along the inside of the tent. It showed Edril as well as the lands surrounding the main cities of House Green and Black, Keadle and Shadom, respectively. The officer also explained that on the border of Shadom, House Black had begun massing an army, but just stayed there, they had made no pushes out of their claimed territory. Nothing had been seen or heard from House Green, they were previously some of the best horse traders in the area, but had pulled all of their flocks into their massive city.
The two listening also got a bit of history about what had actually happened regardless of what the flyers said. About 3 weeks ago, without any warning both House Green and Black had removed all people and property from Edril. No explanation was given, and any attempt to contact them or open any sort of dialog was not answered. Messengers sent to Keadle and Shadom did not return, finally an envoy from Green and Black was seen riding together and set up a small pavilion in the middle of open territory, like an invitation to meet a little over two weeks ago. An envoy from Edril was drawn up, with members from each of the remaining houses, they rode out and met with them. After four days of no word, a messenger was sent out to request information. What he found was a slaughterhouse, it appeared that all of the delegates from both sides had attacked and murdered each other. Even delegates from the same side had attacked each other, no one was sure what to make of it. Then the first troops in Shadom appeared on their borders. The remaining dukes on the council decided to take no chances, and called up the formation of this army.
The officer commented that if only they had someway of opening up contact with House Green to find out what had happened, they would be in better shape. Remembering that Zubrod was lesser nobility in House Green, Sandolin volunteered they might be able to get to the City and speak with them. The officer left them to discuss this option with his superiors. Having been nearby and overhearing the conversation, Tharimil came over to talk to Wikket and Sandolin, he was another recent recruit that was deemed too valuable for regular service, but he hadn’t been assigned to a task yet. As the officer returned, he said he had gotten approval for the group to head to Keadle and attempt to enter the city and make contact with the Duke there, Fai Udaski. The officer also asked to have Tharimil accompany them as well.