Campaign report, New Story: 'The Vulture or the Raven'


Athicus, Irem, Beowulff, and Valerius bid their farewells to Prospero and sailed to Asgalun, capital of Pelishtia in Western Shem. Armed with a map provided by Prospero, translated from the log of a slain Ophirian merchant, the group has set off to find the lost city of Nur, deep in the deserts of central Shem.

Asgalun is an ancient decadent city ruled by King Akhirom. His decrees of late have become stranger and more erratic. At first women were not allowed on the street at night, then women were not allowed to wear shoes, then no one was allowed on the street at night. All offenses to be punished by crucifixion. Then he ordered all Eastern Shemites expelled from the city. Next he declared all Eastern Shemites to be heathens to Ishtar and ordered their execution. Faced with the fact that all Eastern Shemites had fled the city with his previous decree, he ordered his armies to leave the city to hunt down all Eastern Shemites in Pelishtia, round them up, and crucify them. In addition, not trusting his own armies, Akhirom has hired mercenaries to act as personal guard and protect him within the walled palace within the city.

Not knowing their way across Eastern Shem, the party wished to hire an Eastern Shemite guide. Alas, none were to be found, save a single poor bastard unlucky enough to be caught by the City Guards and crucified with five others, a black man from the jungles of the south, a red-handed thief, two poor souls caught wandering the streets after dark, and a woman guilty of wearing shoes. All hung to stout wooden X-shapped crucifixes at sun-down and left to the mercy of the hungry lions, vultures, and ravens.

Many bets were made as to which would feast first, the vultures or the ravens. Most put their money on the vultures. But wait, said some, do not discount the Ravens, for they can be quick. Shifty, even, said another. And the debate continued.

The party, knowing that no other Eastern Shemite would be found for weeks, decided to free the poor soul. So, that night, Athicus and Irem, using great stealth and the cover of shadow, scaled the guard towers of the gate and dispatched the guards with knife and arrow. The Captain at the gate ordered his sergeant to investigate the sounds coming from the tower. Meanwhile, Valerius and Beowulff calmly strode towards the gate, in defiance of the King's decrees. Valerius boldly declared his identity and deeds and ordered the gate open, warning doom on those that do not obey. The captain, having some knowledge of the reputation of the great warrior before him, shrank away and fled into the guard house, fearing for his life. Valerius and Beowulff sighed in frustration and set to chopping down the locked guard house doors to get to the controls that operated the gates.

Athicus leapt from one tower to the other to aid his blood-brother Irem, then leapt back when he saw the Captain running for help. Athicus and Irem each descended into their respective towers and laid bloody slaughter to the guards just waking from their slumber. Athicus subdued the captain so that he might relate his encounter with these villains in the night. Eventually, the gates were opened and the party confidently left the city through the front entrance with camels in tow.

Outside the wall, the party freed the Shemite, whose name was Benit, and his companion, the black man from the Southern Isles whose name was Sakumbe. When asked if he would guide them should they cut him down, Benit replied, "Let me think on it." The party returned "What's to think about?" to which Benit answered in jest, "Well, I've had two other offers already." The others were set free to fend for themselves.

Just then, from the city gate emerged a troop of cavalry. The party and those set free fled into the night. The cavalry gave brief chase but ultimately returned to the city.

The party eventually set camp several miles away near a small stream-bed. In the morning they set off on their journey across the Pelishtim meadows, following the Asgalun river northeast, where they hoped to cross the river at Kyros and head east towards the trading city of Eruk, and from there to the trackless desert. This, Benit told them, was the wisest path to their destination.

By mid-day, the Asgalun cavalry could be seen gaining on them in the distance. The party set up a defense in a grove of trees, raining arrows down upon the advacing cavalry from afar while sheltered by the cover of the gove.

Benit recognized the cavalry as that of Jalar's Sand Devils, a group of mercenaries often hired by King Akhirom to harry the tribes of the East. He is a slaver and a bandit and commands a mercenary army of skilled archers capable of firing while on horseback in the Hyrkanian fashion. They ride Turanian Warhorses, small but swift as eagles and famed for their agility and constitution. The Sand Devils surrounded the grove and set upon the party, with Jalar and his closest lieutenants observing from a rise several hundred feet away.

The battle was brief, lasting only 30 seconds, and resulted in the party inflicting heavy losses on the Sand Devils. The surviving Sand Devils retreated at Jalar's command, and the mercenaries rode back whence they came.

The party bound its wounds and wearily continued on its way. It would be another 2 days to Kyros, 5 days to Eruk, and 3 more days to the location indicated on the map as the Lost City of Nur.