The D&D Mythos campaign is starting to heat up as we all discover our new characters and get used to being at levels one and two again. (That part of it sucks!)
Sariel, my elven bard, is starting to find her feet. For this session, she has a new longbow, a new quarterstaff and a new (magical) lute. They all get a workout…
When I was a child, orcs were almost an abstract concept for me. Others in my family and clan regularly patrolled the orc-infested hills west of the wall, but I never saw one myself.
Then, when orcs slaughtered many of my people at Azan Gedat, including most of my family, I was away studying at one of the bard schools.
Aramil, who witnessed the aftermath of the tragedy at Azan Gedat, still refuses to speak of what he saw that day, but his long-held hatred of orcs thereafter became an obsession. I’ve loved him for his need to seek retribution on my family’s behalf, but never quite understood the depths of his rage.
I’ve heard songs about despicable orcs, written one too. I’ve studied their culture, even learnt their language. But it wasn’t until last night that I encountered orcs in the flesh.
It was early on our Watch patrol when we encountered a Hant woman in the town after curfew. We drove off the “concerned citizens” harassing her, and took it upon ourselves to evict her from the city. Perhaps guided by my own people, the Parnians do not tolerate Hant (whom they call Mestarine) in their city after dark.
Initially I thought this woman, whose name is Callindo, scruffy and undesirable like all Lolth’s children are believed to be. She claimed to be on a god quest, chosen to restore a statue of her god to his temple, now overrun with orcs. I was aware of Aramil’s ears twitching as he doubtless debated whether killing orcs would outweigh helping a Hant.
Then Callindo drew forth the most beautiful broken statue of her god, and I knew in my heart and my bones we had to help her cleanse and restore Fenmarel Mestarine’s holy temple. Dixxon and Aramil agreed with me, leaving Brosia and Alec to grumble about us abandoning our Watch patrol as they accompanied us out of the city.
At around midnight we reached the temple.
The orcs were little more than silhouettes in the darkness, lit by flaming torches set along the length of a palisade. I couldn’t even tell they were orcs, to be honest, but Aramil said he’d know orcs anywhere and he sounded almost excited. Their temple-fort was raised into the hills, backed by a higher ridge. As we stared, the gate opened.
A shiver prickled my skin and my heart started to race as a flood of dogs and orcs hurtled towards us. Of the orcs, all I could make out were vague impressions: large, hulking, ugly, vicious. I nocked an arrow to my beautiful new bow and let fly. My arrows tasted orc blood and my bow sang. I have named it Orc Biter.
The rest of the battle passed in a blur as I chanted courage for my companions. I couldn’t help thinking of my family, besieged by a flood of orcs all those years ago. We were sorely outnumbered and I thought we were going to be similarly slaughtered. But Alec went into a rage and Aramil’s hatred was almost as effective. Dixxon and Brosia were also valiant with their blades. Orc corpses stacked up around their feet.
Finally, when all orcs on the field lay slain, the gate slammed shut. We tended to our own injuries, grateful for the respite, but our goal was not yet accomplished. Orcs still defiled the temple.
The shining temple
Aramil, Alec and Dixxon stormed the gate, covered by Brosia with their crossbow and myself with Orc Biter. We successfully gained entry to discover goblin slaves had seized the advantage and revolted. It wasn’t long before we had liberated the temple complex of all orcs, freed a bunch of Parnian slaves, and sent the goblins on their way.
Inside the complex was the sacred temple — a standing stone circle surrounding an altar defiled by decades of dried and blackened blood. Callindo began washing the altar with god-blessed water. The altar sizzled and steamed, then the standing stones began to shimmer and glow.
Callindo brought forth the idol of Fenmarel Mestarine. On the altar was a plinth bearing his broken feet. The moment she affixed the idol in its rightful place, it flared with bright light and fused together, once more intact.
Everything was shining — the idol, the altar and the whole circle of eight standing stones. Callindo too was filled with light and grace. We could only gaze upon the temple with awe and wonder.
It wasn’t to be expected that the restoration of the temple would go unmarked. Less than hour after its re-dedication to Fenmarel Mestarine, despite the deep hour of night, his adopted people began to arrive.
They were led by a woman named Thester, a shaman, who had seen the shining temple in her dreams. The Mestarine pilgrims rejoiced and sang and lit fires for a celebratory feast. Thester sang the Song of Lolth — but it was no version I had ever heard before. She communed with the wind and shared its message for myself and each of my companions.
Although we needed to get back to Rivermeet — a trek of several hours — it was hard to tear ourselves away. The Mestarine are… not what I expected.
My people scorn the Hant as ‘leftovers’ and outcasts. We treat them with habitual disrespect and often loathing. As do, it seems, the Parnians. But now I must acknowledge that Lolth’s children are no worse than any other humans I’ve met since arriving in Rivermeet — and more pleasant than most.
So, in the space of one night I have been forced to confront two aspects of my own ignorance. I am resolved to treat the Mestarine with less prejudice. Always will I remember the night we helped Callindo cleanse their sacred temple.
As for the orcs… I have now looked them in the eye and taken their measure, spilt their blood. As we trek back to town, dawn breaking in blooms of pink and gold, a new song stirs in my soul.
It was certainly a highly eventful night, providing much food for thought for Sariel.
More Watch business coming up soon!