The Fallen Lands: The Ruins of Numinis

4.7

And Knowing is Half the Battle

Four days outside Tower Rock, the party realized they were going to reach the leaders of the Sons of the Beast the next day. Rangrim lobbied to strike now, before they reach the leaders, but Malidar pointed out that they still hadn’t achieved their mission of gaining any useful information.

That night, as Ginni sat idly on watch, Rusalka the tiefling approached her. Claiming not to be able to sleep, he mentioned that she’d caught his attention with the way she’d participated so whole-heartedly in the blood ritual a few days before, and that he could sense that the she’d been “touched by the darkness.” Ginni confirmed that she has some arcane skills, and asked about advancement opportunities. Rusalka revealed that there was, in fact, an arcane ritual coming up to raise Gruumsh, whose body was found under a goblin king’s grave, using bottles of smoke. The tiefling arcanist in charge of that ritual is Astoreth. And the blood rage ritual is something the tieflings did not bring, but which the orcish races are able to feed with their primitiveness. Ginni nodded and continued some small talk about the plans before being relieved of her duties.

She woke Malidar stealthily and gave him a quick run-down. Then Rhio and Rangrim were woken up and Rangrim told the guard on watch to go check out something he heard “over there.” Ginni sent Blinky out to cast Ghost Sound, and the hobgoblin went to check it.

When he reached Blinky, he yelled “what the hell is that?!?” waking up more orcs. Rusalka approached to talk to Rangrim, they argued, and Blinky popped up behind the hobgoblin, in flank position. Rhio moved up silently behind Rusalka.

Taking their moment of surprise, the party attacked without hesitation or remorse. As orcs and hobgoblins fell beneath Rangrim and Rhio’s weapons, their blood sprayed out in a fine mist, covering them all. When Rusalka died under Malidar’s tratnyr, his body burned off into ash, and a twisted black thing with two burning eyes glared balefully at them, memorizing them before darting off towards the hells it calls home.

The fight over, the party moved off a ways and set up their private campsite. Ginni cast the ritual to transform them back into their natural forms, and they resolved to return to Az and make their report to Jovan.

Malidar made a stirring speech and the party performed a ceremonial ritual to become blood brothers.

They headed to Tower Rock in the morning, meeting a group that included the wardens on the way. They discussed events, told the wardens about the leaders, and bought horses in Tower Rock to make it back to Az more quickly.

The party rode hard for 8 or 9 days, past the ruin of Farmenton, and reached Az. They met Eliza and Jovan there and told Jovan everything.

Meta: They leveled up.

Comments

Ginni put the finishing touches on the ritual, casting a cloud of dust into the air and letting it settle over them. As the dust cleared and the four of them opened their eyes, they all felt, thankfully, different.

“Me beard!” Rangrim cried happily, reaching both hands up and digging his fingers eagerly into his facial hair. “Oh, how I’ve missed it!”

Ginni grinned at him. “For what it’s worth, I think you were the only orc I’ve ever seen with peachfuzz—”

“Ach!” he cried. “Peach fuzz! Does this look like peach fuzz to you, lass?” He tugged happily on the thick, full beard of coarse black hair that was his pride and joy, and she shook her head.

“No, of course not— it looks like…. well, there’s really nothing to compare a lush dwarven beard against, is there?”

“Damn straight, lass!” he cried again, still happily working his fingers through his beard.

Malidar and Rhio exchanged a few words. “I didn’t mind so much when we were orcs, but I really wish for a bath,” Malidar commented, noting the fine spray of red mist that still coated them, leftovers from the fight.

“Oh, I can help with that,” Ginni said, straightening her skirt. Somehow in the last few minutes, she’d gone from orcish witch to her prettily-dressed— and clean — self.

She stepped over to Rhio and started brushing him gently with her hands. It was as if the dirt scampered ahead of her. Stains of blood and filth that Rhio would have expected to need soaking and scrubbing leapt off and disappeared. She ran her hands over his face, down his shoulders and arms, around his chest, “dusting” as she went down his back, legs, even feet. Eventually, she stood and started running her hands through his hair, fingers quickly working at knots and tangles he hadn’t even known were there.

When she was done— it only took her a minute or so— she turned to Rangrim. “You’re next,” she pronounced, and gave him the same treatment. She took extra time on his beard, a conceit he appreciated. She also had to take extra time sliding her hands underneath his plate armor to reach his skin underneath. He did offer helpful suggestions of places she should put her hands “you know, to be sure I’ve got all the orc off.”

“I’m sure you haven’t any ‘orc’ lodged in your ass, Rangrim,” Rhio muttered good-naturedly. But Rangrim’s abrupt, surprised grin and Ginni’s disingenuous blush betrayed the goose she’d laid on him.

Finally, she set about to brushing, dusting, and cleaning up Malidar, from his head to his boots. He obligingly removed his armor so she could reach him better, though she also spared a few minutes to clean that, and his wing-spear, as well.

“Thank you, Ginni,” he said quietly as she ran her fingers through his hair. She had a strange look on her face— halfway between opening her mouth to say something important to him and retreating into lies and bluster again.

Surprisingly, though, she did neither. Instead, her lips quirked a little, and she tugged at his stringy hair. “You need a haircut,” she said simply. “You’re starting to look like a bandit.”

He smiled at her, appreciating the attempt to set them all at ease with her humor, then turned to his friends, drawing them together by the campfire.

“Friends,” he began. “I have something I wish to discuss with you all, before we proceed….”

4.7
 

“I wanted to take the time to address you all before our mission goes any further. We have been asked on two different occasions to participate in rituals which we know to be corrupting and wrong. You have all been my friends and companions on this journey, one in which for whatever reasons personal to us we continue on. I am worried that our resolve may continue to be tested in this way. We have all felt the power that is trying to consume our lands. I wanted to tell you all that we must continue to fight. The enemy that stands before us is the easiest one to defeat. The one within our hearts is much tougher. Resist their evil with me. Let us all bond in the way of my people from ages past. Our own blood cerimony if you will. It is not designed to induce power or bloodlust. It is a symbolic gesture to the strength we share as a group. Rhio, your blade is as sharp as any I have seen, might I borrow it for a moment?…

(the knife passes around the group, and each person makes a small cut on their palm or pricks their fingertip. Malidar then places his hand out and shows them how to clasp them all together)

Let this sharing of our vitality bring us strength as a whole. May our deeds as a group match the will of the Emperor and the might of Numinis. May we continue to work together to purge these lands of darkness.

I am glad that you all elected to do this with me. I would not have had a second thought if you declined. Thank you for all that you have done, and I am certain that the work we are doing is helping these lands. I hope that we can find some answers as to how to stop the teiflings, and whoever else may be behind all of what is going on."

4.7
 

Ginni took the knife from Rangrim and stared down at her hand, hesitating, the tip of the dagger poised above her skin.

She looked up at Rhio, Rangrim, and Malidar, her large brown eyes locking with the warlord’s. “Come on, Ginni,” he urged, though he didn’t say the words out loud.

She looked down at her hand again, and her skin bloomed into a pink blush, from the neckline of her blouse into her cheeks.

Rangrim took the knife from her and held her left hand, quickly and efficiently cutting her skin. A stripe of blood welled up. The dwarf passed the knife to Rhio, who made a quick slash in his own palm, next to the brand of the cursed coin. The four of them pressed palms together, sharing their blood, becoming blood brothers.

As the solemn moment passed, Ginni turned and looked away, her right hand quickly reaching up to touch and fuss with her hair, and, unseen, to wipe the tears from her eyes.
-—————
Ginni mounted the horse, already wincing at the thought of riding again. With a grim chuckle, Rhio settled in behind her, taking the reins and giving the horse a little kick with his boots.

“I don’t understand,” she said quietly as they fell into the line with the others. “Is it a man thing?”

Rhio was startled for a minute, then caught her meaning. “Riding horses? No— but you’d never ridden before?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong— and you and Malidar keep talking about something called a side saddle?”

“It’s for women wearing skirts— but it’s harder to stay on when you move faster than a walk.”

“Oh.” She was thoughtful for a moment, then shifted in the saddle slightly. “Well, is there anything I can do so it won’t hurt so much?”

“You could stop complaining….” he stopped himself and sighed. He didn’t care if she needed a little pain to learn from, but she was asking for help. “Yes. You can wear breeches, like any sane person. At least when you ride— the chafing’s because you’re rubbing bare legs over hard-cured leather for eight hours. Except for some very nicely twisted friends of Rangrim’s, I don’t know any women who can put up with that for so long.” He dropped his hands down to her hips and she tensed slightly, but not in a bad way.

“Second, when your horse picks up to a trot, you absolutely have to lift your ass out of the seat, or it’ll feel like someone’s kicking you repeatedly in the balls—” he broke off. “Well, maybe not the balls. But it’ll hurt. Horses have a few gaits— they trot, canter, gallop, and walk— and if you don’t change the way you move when they do, you’ll hurt.” He continued the lesson, explaining how to know when the horse was about to pick up speed, and how to position herself for jumping.

“Jumping?”

“It won’t happen on the road, but yeah— if your horse gets spooked or we’re fleeing something, you might have to jump. You ready to try a faster gait?” She nodded, and he pulled her against him, bracing her with one arm. “Stay with me, all right?” She nodded again just as he kicked his horse into a trot, posting with it as they veered off of the road a short ways then back again.

When they stopped, Ginni was blushing and giggling. “Really, Rhio! If you wanted to fool around—”

He chuckled. “I swear, Ginni— that was a trot.” He settled back into the saddle, releasing her. “And you did really well.”

“Oh.” She thought about that for a moment, then blushed some more. “Can we do it again? I think I’m going to love riding!”
-——————
As they finished explaining to Jovan the coming plot of destruction, with Ginni filling in more details than she’d even told Malidar, they all pondered what to do.

“I think we should go to Farmenton, find Gruumsh’s body and Astoreth, kill the tiefling, and destroy or steal the body— it’s the best way to derail their plans.” Ginni was insistent, almost militant, as she struck her little fist into her palm.

“We should make sure the leaders are brought down first,” Rhio interjected.

Jovan mused over this, making a few comments but, like Malidar, reserving a decision. Finally, he said “at least now we know their plan.”

“*And knowing is half the battle*,” Rangrim replied, with grim surety.

4.7
mortaine

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.