Atum-Ra Ascendant

A Bloody Start
The party begins the campaign on the arena floor.

The party, each for their own individual reasons, entered the Trial of Absolution in Ramet during the week long Festival of Absolution. In the Trial of Absolution they are expected to survive bouts of gladitorial combat in the Aret-Ra, the largest arena in Ramet. If they survive they gain absolution from the Sorcerer-King ruler of Ramet, Atum-Ra. The party became a group by merit of being those closest to the gate leading into the arena. During their day in the Aret-Ra the party faced off against pathetic slaves (which they seemed to have no moral dilema about slaughtering before the crowd), savage silt-runners, experienced gladiators and finally against the brutal Champion of Ut-Ramet. A huge minotaur, former officer of the Ut-Sekar, Krayd the Butcher was almost too much for the party to handle. One of their members, a shifter who introduced himself to the others only as Druid McDruidson (surely not his real name) was felled by a great sweep of Krayd’s massive axe, a blow that propelled his lifeless body across the arena floor to the great delight of the blood thirsty crowd. The remaining members of the party were successful in bringing down Krayd and thus survived to earn their absolution. Just prior to this final match the party noticed Ut-Farrach Corrac speaking privately with Suldan, Junior Blade Master of the Aret-Ra. After this conversation Suldan made a change and instead of the weak and unskilled rabble he was going to send in to face Krayd he instead sent the party. After the gladiatorial matches were through a presentation ceremony was held in which Farrach Atum-Ra bestowed his absolution on all those who survived the day in the form of a coin each man or woman or insectoid could use to gain freedom from monetary debts they may have accrued or keep as a symbol of a trial completed to absolve themselves of some personal guilt. Atum-Ra broke with tradition during this ceremony in descending from his viewing box and personally dispensing some of these coins, specifically to the party. He also bestows on the party the title of Champion of Ut-Ramet in place of the deceased Krayd. This is met with approval from the upper classes and disapproval of the lower classes (who’s ‘champion’ the party will apparently be). Once the ceremony was complete the party was invited to stay and observe the final spectacle in which a race of what they could only assume to be elves slaughtered a beast giant with nothing more than bone knives and their bare hands. It is widely rumored after the spectacle that these elves form some new cohort of spy’s and assassins for the the Farrach and this was meant as a display of power to intimidate anyone thinking of dissension.

The Lost Caravan: Part 1

As the party gathered their belongings below the arena they were approached by Zanril who introduced himself as a senior partner in The Jarresh Consortium, a merchant group with interests primarily in Ramet, Tyr and various other outposts. After seeing the parties ability to handle themselves he requests their assistance in locating a caravan that has taken too long in journeying from Tyr to Ramet. While some may think that merely surviving the arena is no indicator of the skills necessary for tracking a lost caravan, Zanril knows that anyone who has survived long enough in Athas to gain the combat skills the party has displayed will surely have picked up the skills necessary to survive and track prey in the desert wastes of the Tablelands. Zanril imparts to the party that they may have some difficulty in Ramet if they chose to frequent the lower class areas as surely the peope who reside there will not be pleased at having lost their champion, Krayd. The party agrees to meet Zanril at the Jarresh Consortium’s main compoud near the western gate later that evening.

Once the party leaves the Arena they are soon mobbed by a group of citizens of Ut-Ramet as well as members of the city guard who are unhappy at having lost their favored champion at the hands of the party. The party attempts to escape and make their way to The Jarresh Consortium’s compound, only to be run down and surrounded. The mob does not actually work up the courage to attack the party but they do find themselves robbed of the gold bits they won at the arena (not the absolution they earned from Atum-Ra) before the mob is broken up by members of the Sekar who taunt the crowd at having lost their champion.

The party makes it’s way to the Jarresh compound where they are provided with mounts and provisions for the journey as well as a large pack animal and handlers to carry any surviving cargo and seen on their way by Zanril.

After some time spent traveling to the last known location of the caravan the party searches and finds the empty wagons some distance from the road where they are attacked by silt runners. At first it was assumed that the silt runners were the ones responsible for the attack but closer inspection revealed some inconsistencies with the scene. Bodies found buried under a light covering of sand would surely not have been left intact if the caravan had been attacked by silt runners. The party concludes that these silt runners had merely come across the caravan just as the party had. None the less the party follows silt runner tracks leading from the wagons further towards the Giant’s Ribs Mountains. The party comes across and old single room dwelling being used by the silt runners and a Ssurran shaman as a base of operations for raiding the surrounding area. The party battles the ssurran and the silt runners killing all but one who escapes into the desert.

Having found no sign of the goods from the caravan nor any survivors the party back tracks to the wagon and follows another set of tracks that lead back to the road and then north, away from the the mountains. While following this set of tracks they are ambushed by a party of elves. It is here that another of their number falls, this time to the blades of an elven dune runner. The dune runner was too effective in splitting the party up so they could not properly support each other and alone the Eladrin Assassin who went by more names than the party knew of fell on the tip of an obsidian short sword.

The Lost Caravan: Part 2
The search continues

After collecting the body of their fallen comrade (with the halfling and thri-kreen both surreptitiously taking a snack for later) the party continues to follow the trail of the lost caravan. They soon come upon an oasis. They find an encampment of elves who appear to have taken a group of traders and their cargo hostage. It looks like this could be what they have been looking for. They decide to send Todd in for a closer look. Disguising himself as a traveler Todd warily approaches the encampment asking to trade with them. Todd manages to talk his way close enough to the caravan to determine this is indeed a caravan belonging to the Jarresh Consortium. Todd concludes his ‘business’ and returns to the party. Todd is being followed though and the party hastily kills the elf the encampment sent to ensure Todd left the area. After a few minutes the elves begin calling out for their now dead comrade. The party has only moments to decide on a course of action. They quickly skirt around the encampment and launch an attack near the hostage caravan, before the elves find the body of their dead friend. They manage to free some of the hostages and defeat their elven captors. In the process they free a rather competent shifter and dwarf who agree to help the party. They learn that these two were hired in Tyr to guard the caravan on it’s journey to Ramet but that the elves attacked in such great numbers there was nothing they could to do to prevent their current situation. They also learn that the elven captain was away from the encampment with the bulk of the elves forces and that they were waiting on a ransom of some kind. It appears that this was not simply the work of raiders, there may be something more going on. The party decides against staying the night at the oasis as there is still a rather large group of elves in the region who could return at any moment.

As the party and the caravan make their way from the oasis they are suddenly set upon by more elves. This time by a rather competent elven woman. The party drops back from the caravan to guard it’s retreat and battle the elves. While the party is able to rather easily deal with the elven womans comrades they are not as easily able to defeat her. In fact it looks like she may be able single handedly over come them all. The party is saved only the fortuitous appearance of a sand storm. The storm quickly makes combat all but impossible, the party (with the help of a teleportation from Todd) disengage from the elven woman and retreat into a nearby ruin to take cover from the storm. They are unsure what became of the caravan as it continued on into the desert while they fought the elven attackers.

Into Bastet: Part One
The party delves into a dwarven fairy tale

Inside the ruin the party took refuge they find a grisly site. Ruined equipment and bodies litter the floor of the room. The bodies appear to have been here only a day or two. The room’s walls are decorated with carved relief, the rooms only other features are the door the party entered through and barricaded against the storm and directly opposite a staircase leading down into darkness. Above the staircase is a carved inscription. The dwarves in the party translate the inscription as “The Barrens Gate of Bastet”. Next to this is another, more crudely carved inscription which reads “Bastet the fallen, Bastet the cursed, Bastet the barren. I leave Bastet and curse it’s name. May I never lay eyes on it again. Let the sands swallow this forsaken place.”
Relying on their shared knowledge the party determines that Bastet is widely regarded as a fairy tale told to dwarven children of an ancient dwarven kingdom where dwarves lived free and ruled themselves and that some scholars believe the myth is rooted in fact and that Bastet was in fact an independant dwarven city-state. The party attempts to wait out the sand storm but finds that the entrance has been completely buried by the sands. They take the only other option and descend the staircase into Bastet. At the foot of the stair case they find another body. This one though is not dead. They revive the man, a human rogue, and learn that he was a member of the group encamped and now dead at the top of the stairs. He does not know much other than they were attacked at some point and that he must have been left for dead.
Opening the doors at the bottom of the stairs the party finds another room. This one with multiple exits, many of them blocked by rubble. Scattered about the room are the bones that begin to rise once the party enters the room. A small skirmish ensues with the party fighting skeletons and a nasty Salt zombie that tries to suck the moisture from their bodies. After defeating the undead the party finds two healing potions and 190 gold pieces. These gold pieces may prove problematic as only nobles usually have access to real gold. The party will have to find some way to quietly change this gold into usable gold bits.
The party chooses and opening and ventures further into Bastet. They eventually come across a large room split down the middle by a massive rift. A complicated machine has been built to span the chasm consisting of baskets and pulleys operated by a strange box. The party tinkers with the box and after a few false moves gets the baskets moving again. They appear to be functioning incorrectly as they are simply moving back and forth across the rift. The thri-kreen and halfling take the opportunity to jump into the baskets when they reach their side of the rift. Unfortunately for them they did not look into the baskets to make sure they were unoccupied before they jumped in. They each find themselves suddenly attacked by salt zombies. The rest of the party also finds themselves under attack by skeletons that were apparently waiting for just such an occurrence. (How long have they been waiting here? Why? Were they just hanging off the side of the chasm for millenia, waiting for some hapless adventurers?). After a hard fought battle the adventurers are victorious in defeating the undead. They find a set of master crafted scale armor made from the bones of some creature. (Dwarven +1)
Next time: The party ventures deeper into Bastet.

Into Bastet: Part Two
This fairy tale is becoming a nightmare.

Continuing deeper into Bastet after crossing the rift the party rounds a corner to the sight of another shattered area of the underground city. What appears to have been at one time a large common area has been broken open, perhaps by an earthquake in the distant past. One side of the room is now completely open to a massive cavern, the broken edge of the floor falling away into blackness. In the distance of the massive cavern a blue light shines down upon a ziggurat that looks to float alone on a sea of inky darkness. Tiny figures can be seen moving up and down the side of the structure, the light seems to be coming from a ball of energy floating above the ziggarats peak. Lava flows from a rift in the ceiling on the unbroken side of the room, flowing down the wall, across the floor and falls away into the cavern in a deadly lava fall. The random flow of the lava has created small islands of the stone floor that have not yet given away, it is on these small islands that a battle wages. A group of gnolls are fighting a desperate combat against fire elementals. The party is stunned by this site and are unsure what to do. As they dally the gnolls begin to fall one by one until finally the battle is over. Once the gnolls are dead the fire elementals seem to settle and mill about the area. Since she speaks primordial the halfling shaman in the party takes it upon herself to strike up a parlay with the elementals as none of the party are to keen to fight them after seeing what they did to the gnolls. After some difficult conversation (elementals are after all a rather alien form of intelligence) it is determined that the elementals simply wish to keep ‘their place’ free from interlopers, even those who are just passing through. The party is however able to barter a price for their passage, they trade one gold piece (from those they found earlier in Bastet) to each elemental in exchange for being allowed to pass unharmed to the other side of the lava flow. There is one snag though, the largest of the elementals has on interest in the gold they offer and instead is interested in precious stones. The party does not have any precious jewels which causes them some concern until one of them remembers seeing a jewel in the mechanism that powered the baskets that crossed the rift. They backtrack, retrieve the jewel and make their payment for crossing the lava flow. All does not go well though as they have to leap across the lava flows between the safe areas of stone flooring that remain. The halfling misjudges one of the leaps and plunges a leg into the lava before pulling herself to safety. She is horribly maimed, the party does what they can for her before carrying on. It is imperative now though that they find a way to civilization if she is to survive.

After leaving the lava room the party ventures through more hallways before coming to a large set of double doors carved with large, fearsome dwarf like face, seemingly frozen in a war cry. Unlike a common dwarf though, these faces have long beards and wild, bushy hair. The doors swing open easily to a another stretch of hall at the end of which sits another set of similar looking doors. As they progress down the hallway they begin to hear a loud boom-boom-boom sound coming from beyond the doors. They find the second set of doors looked and they can now hear cries of pain from beyond the doors. The rogue picks the look and opens the door just enough to allow them to look inside, by this time the booming and cries has ceased. A frigid blast of air meets them as they open the door, a coold wind blows through the room, seeming to originate from large cracks in the ceiling. The floor and walls are caked in ice. In the centre of the room is a raised dais and in each corner stands a tall stone statue holding a hammer poised over a large drum. The party cautiously enters the room and beholds yet another gruesome sight. More gnolls, some of them pierced by large bolts, some appearing brutalized by something large and blunt. As the last member of the party enters the room the doors swing shut behind them. The hammers in the hands of the statues swing down, striking the drums in front of them. A loud boom echoes through the room, the sound so loud it hits the party like a physical force hurting them all. On the dais in the middle of the room a siege engine materializes, a large bolt thrower. It turns in place and fires on the party. After a hard fought battle the party manages to take control of the siege engine and destroy the statues striking the drums. The are safe for now but cannot stay long in the freezing room lest they succumb to the frigid temperature.

Into Bastet: Finale
Finally a way out, all we have to do is fight that 20 foot tall stone golem and his mummy sidekicks, piece of cake.

Leaving the frigid room where they fought the arcane arbelest and hammering statues the party finds yet another hallway ending in another pair of immense doors. These doors have a large warhammer over a shield carved into their face. At the foot of the doors lies a body. Upon closer inspection the party finds a gnoll lying at the foot of the doors, one clawed hand still clinging to an iron pull ring set into the door. The gnoll is alive but his breathing is ragged and he does not appear conscious. A quick assessment determines the was likely poisoned by a trap in the door. The poison is weak though (likely due to age) and Todd is able to stabilize the gnoll and eventually he regains consciousness. The party learns that the gnoll’s name is Kar’tesh and he is the last surviving member of his party. They also learn that at the rift room the gnolls simply scaled the device spanning the rift and crossed over the top, thereby avoiding (and not even knowing of) the undead waiting to ambush them. At the lava room they determined they were fighting a losing battle and a number of them stayed behind to battle the elementals while the rest ventured on. Finally at the ice room Kar’tesh was able to cross the room and exited the far entrance before the trap was sprung, sealing him into the hallway and the rest of his group in with the arcane arbelest. Kar’tesh though does not seem particularly upset at having lost his entire party saying only that they “did their duty and there is nothing to mourn”. Human McRogue seems to take an instant liking to Kar’tesh and lobbies the rest of the party to allow him to join them, he agrees to assist the party in finding a way out of Bastet.

Human McRogue disarms the trap and unlocks the door into the next area.
The doors open into darkness, the party cannot see very far into the room, they venture forth into the darkness. They soon come across a stone statue of a dwarf sitting on a throne. A loud voice that seems to emenate from the room itself intone “Who disturbs the War Master of Bastet?”. Before the party can answer the statue begins to move, it stands up from it’s stone throne and attacks the party. It leaps through the air, covering the distance between it and the party in a blink of the eye and smashes it’s stone hammer on the floor. Thunder rushes outward from the blow, injuring all party members nearby. After a few minutes of fierce fighting the party reduces the stone dwarf to rubble and breath a sigh of relief, thinking their ordeal over. In the darkness though they again hear the hollow booming of drums. The carved reliefs on the wall have animated, they strike their drums calling forth more ancient protectors. Areas of the relief that displayed fierce warriors prepared for battle burst forth revealing hidden alcoves underneath which secreted the bodies of ancient warriors. These animated remains shamble out of their recesses, they are shriveled as if mummified by thousands of years of desert heat. They wear rotting loin clothes and bear spears whose tips burn with a white radiance. The party rushes to engage them only to find out to their dismay that they are basically walking bombs, every time the party fells on it explodes in a thunderous detonation injuring all around. The dwarf Rikstout is brought nearly to the brink of death by these explosions. As soon as the final mummy is dispatched a fierce wind whips through the room, rubble begins to swirl around the place where the War Master fell. The stone begins to meld together, the true aspect of the War Master of Bastet is revealed in the form of a 20 foot tall stone golem. This time the battle is not as easy, the War Master hurls stones at those he cannot reach and swings a great stone club around him, brutalizing all who venture to near. During the battle the party ventures to an area of the room they had not previously seen and find great war machines, trebuchets, waiting for a war that never came. For a moment they hope they can use these siege engines to battle the war master but that thought is soon dashed as they find the trebuchets will take too long to prepare for battle (besides the fact that trebuchets are not meant for short range assaults). With things looking grim, Todd mortally wounded and most of the rest of the party on the brink, Kar’tesh raises his kopesh in the air and intones some sort of ritual in gnollish, his kopesh seems to reflect some unseen light for a moment and he strikes the War Master a vicous blow that leaves it vulnerable to the parties attacks. They assault it with renewed vigor with Kar’tesh finally landing a killing blow, the War Master crumbles again and does not rise. Hairy McShifter recalls hearing during Kar’tesh’s attack the name “”/campaign/atum-ra-ascendant/wikis/atum-ra" class=“wiki-page-link”> Atum-Ra" which raises the parties suspicions. The party rests in the War Masters room before scaling a fissure in the wall at the top of which they are finally free of Bastet. During all this time Kar’tesh has been carrying a rather full looking pack that he has never let out of his sight.
At the top of the fissure the party find Imkatep, a drifter the original caravan the party was sent to find picked up along the way from Tyr. He appears to have set up camp and been waiting for the party. When questioned about what he is doing here he says he was waiting for them. When asked how he knew where to wait he enigmatically points to the sky and says “He” told me. Generally considered by the caravan to be a sun-addled drifter the party accepts this explanation and sets out to return to Ramet. Imkatep informs them that the rest of the caravan had already continued on ahead of them a few days prior.

Upon coming within sight of the city walls of Ramet Kar’tesh takes his leave of the party, stating only that it would be better for them if they were not seen entering the city together. The party tries to convince him to come with them or at least give them a better explanation than that. He grows exasperated with their pestering and shakes his kopesh at them saying incredulously “do you not know what this means?” indicating his weapon. They don’t. They give up and leaving him on the road head into the city. They make straight for the Jarresh compound where the now delirious halfling is whisked away by the compounds physician. The rest of the party is welcomed by Zanril who offers them the comforts of his compund for a few days while they recover. Zanril rewards them with 50 bold bits each as well as 200 gb of “favours” by the Jarresh Consortium (no, not those kinds of favours). At a meal that evening the party recounts their adventure to Zanril, he questions Human McRogue a bit but gets no more information than he has given the party. He also opinions that the gnoll the party met may have been a member of the Sekar, the royal guard of Ramet who all bear very a finely made kopesh as one of their symbols of office.

The next day Human McRogue sets off to wrap up some unfinished business. The party tries to follow him but he easily loses them. He travels into Ut-Ramet in search of prior employers, after some searching and bribing of a very frightened street urchin he finds their offices ransacked and signs of a struggle. The street urchin reveals that the people there were taken away by the Sekar a few weeks ago.

The Cult Conundrum: Part One
A halting start.

With some of the party still recovering at the Jarresh Consortium Compound and Human McRogue returning from whatever shadowy business he was on the party sets out into the city. They wander around rather direction-less for some time, peering into shop windows but without the coin to buy anything they really want. Eventually they find themselves, at the suggestion of Human McRogue, outside the Temple of Atum-Ra. A large pyramid shaped building north east of the Palace, the Temple is the administrative heart of the city. It is here that supplicants beseech the Farrach (or more likely the Ut-Farrach or one of the Theochs) for favour or remediation of disputes. As a side note local disputes are usually handled by Nomachs or ward councilors/mayors of which there are three in Ramet, one for each district. The party mills about outside the Temple and Human McRogue make a nuisance of himself to the Temple guards but has the good sense at least to leave before getting arrested. After a bit more window shopping the party returns to the Jarresh Consortium Compound to find a few of the Sekar waiting for them. Human McRogue reconnoiters the situation after which Bug Man Todd, Hairy McShifter and their new friend Ugh the half-giant agree to just go and see what the Sekar want with them (meanwhile Human McRogue follows from a safe distance).

The party is escorted back to the Temple of Atum-Ra and this time gain entrance (except for Human McRogue who hides out behind the designated and clearly marked “rogue loitering bush”). The party are taken to a room high up in the building where they are presented to Corrac. The room is richly appointed with a series of columns supporting an arched ceiling, in the centre sit a small throne on a dias where Corrac sits listening as a well dressed man implores him about a trade agreement. In the back of the room, sits a far larger and more ostentacious throne cloaked in shadows, upon this throne sits Atum-Ra, with his golden mask it is impossible to tell if he is paying any attention at all to the activity in the room.

Once Corrac is done with the well dressed man he motions to the guards who brought the party in and they prod them forward to stand before his throne. He explains to the party that there have been problems recently with a cult that has been operating in the area. This cult has apparently been raiding trade caravans which is beginning to take a toll on Ramet’s economy. They have also been sending their operatives into Ramet, primarily Ut-Ramet to proseletize and gain new converts. There has also been word that the cult has actually been kidnapping people and inducting them into their activities. The Farrach is concerned about the toll this cult is having on the well being of his subjects and wishes the party to investigate. Corrac would like the party to simply determine the identity of any ring leaders that may be residing in Ramet and more importantly the location of their base of operations that lie somewhere outside the city, hidden in the endless dunes. The party, surmising that they have little choice but to do the Farrach’s bidding or end up dead or worse, agree. Corrac makes a vague promise of remuneration that the party finds hard to believe they will ever see. Before they leave Atum-Ra beckons Corrac to speak with him, Corrac does so and returns to the party and declares “The Farrach would like the new members of your group to have a token of his appreciation. He hands Ugh and ”/campaigns/atum-ra-ascendant/characters/hairy-mcshifter" class=“wiki-content-link”>Hairy McShifter each a golden coin, the same coins the party received at the Festival of Absolution. He also gives one to Bug Man Todd for their “rogue friend”. The party departs and collects Human McRogue from the collection of other rogues waiting at the rogue-bush.

To be continued…

The Cult Conundrum: Part Two
The investigation begins.

After leaving their audience the Corrac the party mulls over their options in how to proceed tracking down this cult. They consider borrowing a caravan from someone and trying to temp the cult into attacking it and then following them back to their encampment. They also consider trying to appear as eager converts looking to join a cult-like organization. Finally they settle on talking to locals and seeing what they can find out. After receiving a few vague fourth or fifth hand clues they eventually hear of a talkative barkeeper at The Bitter Bit who seems like he may have some information. The party makes it’s way to the Bitter Bit and after ordering a few ale’s and a bit of awkward attempts at small talk by Bug Man Todd (coupled with a very ill-advised disguise) they eventually learn from the barkeep that one of the cult’s most locally visible spokesmen is Yanech The Poor who can often be found preaching in Dry Well Square, deep in the east quarter of Ut-Ramet. The barkeep does not seem to have a very high opinion of Yanech though saying “Ya, I hearda him. Heard he hangs around Dry Well Square most days. Heard he’s just some sun-addled swindler, talking good people outa their hard earned bits and given ’em not much in return.”

The party heads to Dry Well Square to find out more about Yanech. Upon arriving they find a medium sized square with many run-down stalls and old buildings in various states of disrepair. The square is fairly packed with people, many of which are sitting around what looks to be a hastily erected stage at the far end of the square from where the party entered. Around the crowd sitting there are also a large number of people who look and sound less eager for the appearance of Yanech. The party overhears a number of conversations centered around how Yanech is a swindler and a fraud. After a few minutes an older man takes the stage. The man, presumably Yanech, although older appears quite healthy and strong. He wears his hair in a tonsure and is dressed in a white robe with yellow sash wrapped around his shoulders and waist, both appear to have seen better days. Yanech followed by four younger men all similarly dressed. After a smattering of applause (and the occasional derisive cry) die down Yanech begins speaking to the crowd. During his oration Yanech expound’s on the virtues of co-operation and grace. He implores those listening to share with and provide for their neighbours just as Athas and someting he calls the Life Tree provides for it’s worshipers. Some in the crowd seem unconvinced, and walk away, a few giving voice to their derision. Others though sit at his feet, enchanted. When he finally finishes assistants come forward and hand out fruit to those who have stayed and listened. As they make their way past the party they various fruits into their hands. The fruit appears ripe and healthy, far better than any fruit the party has seen in the city before. Most of the party partake of the fruit they were given finding it delicious and filling. Flint (aka Hairy McShifter) though distrusts Yanech and gives his fruit to the nearest waif. While the party is considering what they heard and the strangely excellent fruit a commotion breaks out near them. An elderly man is suddenly crying out “I can see! I can see!”. A crowd forms around him with people excitedly talking and trying to get a look at the man. A young woman worms her way out of the crowd and excitedly tells those around her that the man says he has been blind since birth but after eating the fruit from the fruit he can see. The party makes it’s way to the man and questions him for a few minutes about his condition before and after eating the fruit and what he knows about miracles happening at Yanech’s gatherings. They suspect that the old man is a plant there to spur belief in Yanech and the Life Tree he refers to, but the old man appears so genuine that they are unsure. The party then makes their way over to Yanech himself, near the stage to talk to him. They speak about a number of things, asking about the fruit, the Life Tree, his work in Ramet and the nature of the miracles he has seen happen. Throughout their conversation they get the feeling that Yanech is not telling them everything. They try to get Yanech to allow them to assist him in his work which he is only to willing to allow saying their is much work to be done in Ramet from feeding the poor, to helping rebuild homes. This is not quite what they were looking for as they want to track down this Life Tree and his encampment outside the city but he is reluctant to take them there saying only that in time perhaps they could come with him once his work in Ramet was complete. As they are speaking with Yanech they notice his assistants moving through the crowd with baskets, collecting donations.

Before they can speak any further with Yanech a scream goes up from the far end of the square, the party turns to see Ut-Sekar flooding into the square from every street and alleyway. A man who appears to be a Sergeant or captain is exclaiming “This is an un-authorized gathering of more than 10 persons and as such you are ordered to disband and return to your homes and/or places of business immediately.” The ut-sekar around him begin laying into those gathered around them with their truncheons and the crowd begins to scream and run from them. The party is momentarily stunned and can only watch the brutality. In short order a few Ut-Sekar have worked their way through the crowd and have the party surrounded against the stage. After trading a few blows with them the party decides the situation is hopeless since there are so many Ut-Sekar (as well as not wanting to actually kill any agents of the Farrach as they are working for the same person and towards the same goal even through the Ut-Sekar have no knowledge of them or their mission). The party retreats onto the stage and Yanech calls for them to follow him, he heads to the back of the stage and through a door in the building the stage was built against. Yanech leads them down a twisting and confusing series of alleys and side streets. He sets a fast pace for such an old man, but as they noted before he appears to be in exceptional shape for his age. They catch the occasional glimpse of ut-sekar in pursuit, or hear their shouts in neigbouring streets and alleys. Eventually Yanech leads them through a small door, into a ramshackle building. He leads them through hallways and rooms until you reach a stone wall, out of place with the rest of the brick and wooden structure. He searches the wall for a moment with his fingers, you hear a click, and part of the wall springs forward an inch or two. Yanech pulls on this section and it pivots easily outwards. Through the man-sized hole in the wall the party can see a stone hallway and on the other side stands a man bearing a torch. “I heard there might be trouble today, figured I should be expecting you.”, he says. Yanech grins and the two men shake hands. Yanech replies “Trouble always comes eventually, I am surprised it took them so long this time.”. “I see you picked up some more straglers.” the stranger says. He suddenly starts in recognition when he gets a better look at the party “Well, I know you, or some of you at least. Todd if I remember right. Where are the rest of your friends?”. Todd recognizes this man as Suldan, now blade master of the arena whom he first met during the festival of absolutions gladiatorial games.

Suldan takes the group to one of the gladiator training prepatory rooms. The arena appears practically deserted, Suldan explains that on days when there are no games not many people are required to keep the arena.

Yanech explains it will be dangerous for the group in the city for the next while and that perhaps they should accompany him out of the city, they can stay with him for a few weeks at his groups encampment.

The party puts their heads together and decides to get a message to Zuldan at the Jarresh Consortium to see if he can secret them out of the city in a wagon. The next morning a wagon arrives from the Jarresh Consortium to carry them to safety. As they are leaving to get on the wagon the party sees a mysterious visitor arrive at the same time. Is this just a coincidence? Did this person arrive with the wagon? There is no time to find out more as they quickly mount the wagon and leave the city. They do not encounter any problems leaving the city as the guards on the city gates are more interested in people entering the city than leaving it. During the weeks long journey to Yanechs encampment the party is ambushed by a rag tag group of raiders. Instead of killing them the party takes pity on them and their miserable state, giving them fruit from the Life Tree and inviting them to journey with them. The raiders agree warily and the party soon learns the raiders are the Oben Brothers (Choben, Roben, Doben, Koben, Soben, Yoben and Floben), a rag tag group of half breeds each with their own sad tale to tell.

The party finally reaches Yanech’s “encampment” to find a marvelous sight. A wood and brick wall surrounds a rather large encampment consisting of a few permanent structures made of brick and stone and a very large number of tents. The most amazing sight though is great and massive tree that spreads it branches high over the entire area. The tree is truly massive, larger than anything they could have ever imagined. The tree itself is easily as large as the palace in Ramet if not larger with uncounted branches. Fruit of every kind seems to grow from these branches and as the party gets closer they can see that people scurry about high in the tree lowering down baskets of fruit on long ropes. Once the party gains entrance to the encampment Yanech finds a place for the Oben brothers he invites the party to stay in his tent while he speaks with the elders about their presence.

The Cult Conundrum: Part Three

Some time after arriving at the Life Tree encampment Yanech comes to collect the party and takes them to a large tent near the base of the tree. There he introduces them to the elders of his “cult”. Amongst them is an elderly woman he introduces as Honoured Voice of the Tree, their High Priestess. Honoured Voice gives the party some information about her organization and what history of the Tree she knows and is willing to impart. It mostly boils down to the fact that the tree has been here as long as their history records and they have been here worshiping it for just as long. They believe that the tree is integral to the continued survival of Athas. Bug Man Todd is not buying much of her story and insists that people who are not forthcoming with information have something nefarious to hide. Honoured Voice in return insists that knowledge not earned is rarely taken to heart and will not reveal more until the party is ready. Before the conversation can get much further a commotion interrupts them. A pilgrim (Geb) on his way to the tree with another missionary were attacked and the rest of his party was captured by beasts and dragged off. After a bit of cajoling the party bravely volunteers to return to the scene with the man and attempt to rescue the missionary and the rest of the pilgrims.

Geb leads the party to what appears to be a long abandoned mine. The party ventures into the mine while Geb waits at the entrance. In the mine the party finds a group of Hejkin, hairy humanoids with but a sliver of intelligence. After defeating the Hejkin and their traps the party finds a hole at the back of the mine leading further down. They descend to find the some of the missing pilgrims alive and the bloody remains of the rest (as well as that of more than a few Hejkin). Unfortunately the pilgrims are not the only thing they find. It appears the Hejkin were worshiping a pair of Ankhegs. The battle with the Ankhegs nearly kills a couple members of the party but they are finally able to defeat them and rescue the pilgrims, escorting them safely back to the encampment.

Back at the Life Tree the worshiper there throw a great celebration for the safe return of the surviving pilgrims as well as a funeral for those who perished. The party witnesses the worshipers burial ritual wherein they throw the bodies of the deceased into the crevasse from which the life tree grows, apparently believing they are completing some circle of life returning both spirit and body to the life tree. The party is also honoured for their service to the worshipers and in an apparently surprising event are rewarded by the Life Tree itself with treasured items that ascend from the crevasse to rest at their feet.

The Cult Conundrum: Part Four

After their reception as heroes for rescuing the pilgrims the party decided to stay with the Worshipers of the Life Tree for a time. They spend some time learning of the Worshipers ways and skeptical Todd presses Honoured Voice for more information about the Life Tree and the Worhsipers, still afraid of being tossed down the crevasse as a snack. Eventually Todd and the party is convinced the Worshipers have no hidden agendas, or at least none that involve being made into a four course dinner for the Life Tree. They come clean to Honoured Voice that they were told the Worshipers were a nefarious cult and were sent to locate their encampment. Honoured Voice is a little dismayed but does not seem overly worried. She seems confident that the power of the Life Tree would ensure that no enemy with truly evil intentions could find their way to the encampment. It is not long after this however that this confidence is proven to be misplaced. Horns sound from outside the encampment and everyone rushes to the walls to find themselves besieged by an army. It is Atum-Ra and his soldiers. They claim they have come to commune with and protect the Life Tree. Honoured Voice is convinced by Yanech and the Party that they are here for no such thing and so the Worshipers resolve to resist. Yanech guides the party to a breach in the walls that he asks the party to defend. When the attack begins, with conscripts and slaves, they are initially hesitant to attack the breach and the formidable looking party. Soon though a wicked looking halfling witch appears and goads them into attacking. The party deals with the riff raff and prepares for the real assault by the soldiers. When the attack comes though they are again left unmolested. The party overhears one leader recognizing the party and stating they were not to be attacked on Atum-Ra’s orders. The battle does not last long, the worshipers being no match for Atum-Ra’s soldiers. The party finds themselves surrounded and forced to surrender. They are taken to the Life Tree where the survivors have been rounded up. Finally Atum-Ra makes his appearance. He begins a magical ritual of some sort, appearing to be using the bodies and life force of the surviving worshipers to fuel it. Honoured Voice tries to stop him and they engage in some form of arcane battle although with little outward displays to indicate such. Finally something breaks and with a crack of in rushing air all the remaining worshipers disappear and Honoured Voice crumbles into ash having sacrificed herself. Still needing a source of power to complete the spell, there is a backlash of energy and a wide swath of Atum-Ra’s soldiers are consumed and fall to the ground dead. With a loud crash the Life Tree splits apart down the centre, the two halves peeling away from each other. Revealed in the centre of the tree sits a massive glowing orb of yellow energy. Atum-Ra seems to absorb this orb of energy and then departs with is forces, leaving the party alive and alone in the encampment. They burn the dead soldiers and cast the bodies of the dead worshipers they can find into the crevasse as was their custom. They then gather what supplies they can and travel back to Ramet, to the Jarresh Consortium’s compound.


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