The Coming of the Astar Uln, Part 6

Qua Jon wandered alone with his familiar through the forest, the increasing winds rattling the tall pines around them. Fat drops of rain had started, slapping against leaf and pine needle alike. He drew his tattered and worn green cloak tightly against himself, drawing his hood down low over his eyes.

Despite the worsening weather, the man had a wide grin on his face, like a child in awe of the unexplained. He even giggled slightly, drawing attention from the badger that crept around at his feet. Wormchomper stared for a moment, her head tilted to the side. Appeased that the noise did not mean anything immediate, she went back to shuffling along the ground, rooting in the soft decomposed pine needles and sniffing the air.

“There is a wind, Wormchomper. It is a wind that goes through all places. A storm can be big enough to cover the entire world, or more! Is that not wonderful? Think of all the places you’ve never seen. What would grubs taste like in the demon realm? Pray you never find out, Wormchomper. But no! Pray too loud, and perhaps the demons would hear you. It might bring them back to Samsarras. “

Qua Jon looked as though he considered the notion for a moment. The demons that had created the world had been absent from Samsarras for a long while. The wood elf had spoken to a creature in the mists some time past who told him that the dark ones warred in the heavens against each other, too distracted by their struggles to pay the mortals much heed. Qua Jon was not sure if the beast was truthful, but he was thankful for the absence none the less. Even Thathtil Grog Mezzserin, Demon of Madness of whom he had been favored, had not made her presence known. 

“Yes, Wormchomper. It is best to be silent about such things. Do not pray about grubs for any reason. It is better safe than sorry, is it not?”

Wormchomper stopped digging in a particularly fruitful patch of dirt and waddled back over the the mage. A long and plump earthworm dangled from her mouth as she pushed onto her hind legs, her fore paws coming to rest on Qua Jon’s shin. She slurped it up and made a sort of cooing noise, her face rubbing up against the bottom of his knee. He crouched to run his fingers through her oily hair.

“You are wise, Queen badger. Perhaps more so than me. I am glad to have your council.”

Without warning, he flopped backwards onto the ground, his arms and legs sprawled to his sides. The rain had intensified now and it took advantage of his prone position to soak every part of the mage. The Badger also took advantage of it and leaped upon him, rolling joyfully over his torso as the mage continued to giggle.

“We should not play, Wormchomper!” he spit out between giggles. “This rain, this wind… it ensures me that it is very serious! Look how quick it comes! There is lightning on the horizon, but it moves swiftly in our direction. Perhaps it is a gift?”

The badger scampered off of the mage and let loose a guttural hiss. Qua Jon, alarmed at her sudden change in nature, quickly propped himself up on his arm and looked about. The woods had grown dark, but his Elven eyes were adept at sight under the night sky. The five humans creeping toward him did not escape his notice.

The demons may have been gone from the world, but enough of their minions remained.

“Elf, elf, get the fire lit

we’ll put your bones upon a spit

you’ll make a disappointing roast

not fit to serve a proper host. ”

The woman’s voice was gruff, but the accent placed her as Mirlethian. Those barbaric humans had recently discovered sea travel, and with it, a pathway to the elven lands. Unlike the Dwarves, who were easy allies, the Mirlethians wished for nothing but death and plunder. Qua Jon wished to give them neither. Slowly, he stood up as they came out from behind trees into full view.

“You should leave, humans. These are my lands and the lands of my queen. She seems to have already taken a dislike to you.”

“Elf, Elf, into the stew

On your bones, we all will chew

Too little meat, and tough at that

Give me a cut with a bit more fat!”

She smiled at her cleverness as she beat her hand axe against her shield. The weapon looked like a toy in her meaty hand. The other four begun to fan out around them as the badger hissed again in warning.

Qua Jon stayed calm, moving slowly and deliberately. He purposely slowed his breathing, allowing his mind space to think. He could feel the almost pricks of electricity in different parts of his brain as he mentally wove pieces of the spell together. A faint dark purple light started to bathe his hands, almost invisible against the dark night.

The mage heard the jangling of metal behind him as one of the warriors decided to advance. His sword cut through empty air, however. Qua Jon looked down at him from the tree limb he had teleported to. He cradled Wormchomper in one of his arms, using the other to stroke her fur. Teleportation always left her disoriented.

The warriors looked about themselves in confusion. They looked behind bushes and around trees, but none thought to look up. A frantic energy infected their movements as they sought to reconcile the passing seconds in their minds.

“Witch’s work!” yelled the oldest of the group. He grabbed at a shock of his long grey hair as he said it, his eyes wild. “It was a ghost of the wood! We can not rob a ghost!”

The woman who had sang did not seem convinced.

“Demon spawned elf! If you give us those pouches you wore, maybe we’ll let you go. Yarlloth has had plenty of other sacrifices by our hands today. What cares he if one gets away?”

As if in answer, a host of glowing white balls of energy shot from the trees. Even as the elder turned to yell an alarm, he was struck down as one collided with his chest, rendering his leather armor useless. Two of the others fell prey to the other two balls. The remaining warriors looked up as one to see the source of the magic. Qua Jon stood in the tree, smiling down upon them.

“I liked your song.”

Qua Jon began to speak words in a language not many knew. It was the language of magic, a language that the mage himself had discovered. Qua Jon was the first mage of Samsarras. It was he who found the very thread that held the world together and learned how to harness its power. He had taught others, but their number was very few. Little did he know how soon he would have another pupil.

He was mere seconds away from finishing the spell when the axe connected with his shoulder. The warriors aim had been off; she was trying for the elves head. He stared at the wound for but a moment before falling from the tree, the impact with the ground rendering him unconscious. The other Mirlethian rushed forward towards him, his two handed sword poised high above his head.

“Wait,” said the woman. “I have other uses than the stew pot for this one. Bind him and treat his wound.”

She strode over to him and knelt, staring at his pale face. She traced his tattoo of a tree limb from his jaw to where it disappeared beneath his collar, wondering at the runes drawn along it’s length. “I have more in store for him than death.”

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Digging in the Sand

Bones. So many bones. How many people have been buried here?

You find a rusty long sword and a small, golden vulture head worth 250 gp.

Red Sand

The sand here on the edge of the sacrificial ground is loose and looks recently churned.

What happens if I dig under it?

Vulture Priest

The Vulture Priests are the enemy of knowledge and enlightenment. They seek to bring the eternal silence, the end of all things. Decay and obedience is their only god.

Armor Class 6 [13]
Hit Dice 1 (4hp)
Attacks 1 × Beak (1d4 or by weapon)
THAC0 19 [0]
Movement 120’ (40’)
Saving Throws D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (1)
Morale 8 (11 when at their temple)
Alignment Lawful
XP 10 
Number Appearing 2d4 (1d6 × 10)
Treasure Type D
Immune to the Divine: The spells and powers of clerics and paladins have no effect on them.
Weapons: They frequently use wickedly curved daggers, which they use for sacrificial purposes.
Soul Clouders: There is a 10% chance that any Vulture Priest can use the sleep spell once per day. The targets are still awake, but they are beset by such a deep depression that it has the same effect as sleep. They may only watch what unfurls around them.