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1
Rise of the Runelords / Re: The beginning and end of the arm of Gorum
« on: August 14, 2019, 09:32:10 AM »
After the fight
---

Tung stared directly into the eyes of the great dragon.  He could sense Jiro by his side but not much more than that.  The rage tended to sap his peripheral vision and right now the world was dragon.  Everything was dragon.  He reaches down into the reserves of berserker fury he's learned to harness and finds new strength, anger like he has never felt.  The world fades.  All is darkness; he sees only the blade of his axe and his foe.  It hurts so much.

He remembers something from an earlier time.  Back when he was told what the eye of Gruumsh was truly for.  A vision of a death.  The force he threw behind his blow seems to awaken something, his empty eye socket begins to burn but nothing materialises.  That power seemed to have faded along with the one who granted it.  He did witness a death, though.  The axe passed cleanly through bone and sinew, struck true at the target's neck.  Thick blood coated the screaming orc, mixing with the blood of the dozens he'd slaughtered this day.

The next thing he knew, he was laid on the ground in a foetal ball, sobbing and wailing.  A comforting on his shoulders and an insistent voice telling him everything would be fine.  If Jiro thought things would be fine, it would be so.  Ragged cheering rang out from the rooftops.  They'd won.

The coming days were memorable.  Celebrations and revelry the likes of which he'd never known.  Unfortunately Timothies 1-4 had survived the charge but appeared to have defected and joined the stone giants.  That was a relief.  Tung had come to see them as mischievous children with insatiable appetites.  He wasn't ready to be a parent.  Maybe he would miss them in time but for now, things were peaceful.



The days turn to weeks and to months.  In the company of good friends, he finds fulfillment but the barbarian life calls to him.  After all, his body is now a literal weapon which rather puts a damper on his previous dreams of farming.  Tung continues to fight for causes he believes in until one day, after a particularly long battle, Tung awakens.  He is not aware of having fallen asleep.  The last he remembers, he was engaged in a fight that he was, in truth, not certain he would win.  Quite fortunate, really, that he was now stood in... a grand courtyard under a blank, black sky.

Oh.

From his discussions with Jiro, he knew what to expect from the afterlife.  It was as described.  Baleful, tremendous moon lighting the area, onyx structure stood in the near distance.  He supposed that many who came here would feel intimidated but... well, after everything he'd been through, what was the point?  Years of fear and subjugation, only to face the same again in death?  No.  He'd not always acted with good intentions, he knew, but he'd tried to make amends here and there.  For an orc, he'd had a decent kind of life and for a barbarian he'd practically been a saint.  Yes.  Provided he hadn't been brought to any plane still accessible by old One Eye, maybe he still had hope.

It had come as a surprise in some ways but had been entirely predictable in others.  He was truly surprised to have lived for as long as he already had.  That was heartening.  It made him feel confident, almost successful.

He sat for a while, waiting to be called.  He had faith in the process that had been described to him by both friends and religious leaders.  It was right to wait.  Be patient.  He noted that his arm was still missing and a brief exploratory claw confirmed his missing eye, ioun stone still intact.  That was a shame.  He missed depth perception.

"Tung.  Come forward."

A voice, felt rather than heard.  He slowly walked into the tower before him and an unseen door shut behind him.  He stood in darkness.

"Will the representative for Tung make themselves known?"

A light shone to one side.  Tung saw a large suit of armour, quite mundane in appearance, hung in the air.  But no, not hung.  There was something in there that he couldn't see.  Its helmet, face obscured by a thick iron visor, turned to him and inclined slightly.  Realisation dawned and Tung nodded in kind.  No reverence.  They were equals in battle.  It seemed to regard him critically for some time then turned to the darkness.

"Aye."  Said a cold voice.  It spoke in iron and blood, it spoke in sweat and exertion.  It clanged.  "Gorum."

"The negatives will be considered first.  The creature before us has been accused of heathen worship of an ancient displaced god.  The god in question, Gruumsh "One-Eye" no longer has residence upon this plane and cannot speak for their follower.  This orc has committed many profane acts in the departed god's name, often without remorse and occasionally with enthusiasm.  They have freely admitted prejudice towards what they perceive to be lesser races despite being a victim of such injustice themselves.  They have dedicated their entire life, nay, their very being to mindless slaughter and despite apologies and hand-wringing insincere regrets, they have time and again continued along the path of murder and carnage.  What say you?  Tung, you may proceed."

Tung sat and thought.  Best not to rush things.

"You... speak Orc, then?"

Booming laughter filled the room.

"We speak in the tongue of celestial beings, Tung.  No, we do not speak Orc nor Common but a language of thought.  Speak you mind in any way you find comfortable and we will understand."

"What."

"Orc will be fine."

"If you are quite sure?  Then I shall address your points in turn.

Yes, I freely admit to having worshipped Gruumsh.  Not of my own free will entirely, it was the tradition of our tribe and he ensured that such traditions were upheld but I do accept responsibility for that and also for my later conversion from his way.  Lack of remorse?  Certainly, for One-Eye punished such things.  I learned not to revel but to tolerate and to endure the atrocities.  I took no pleasure.  Enthusiasm?  I was consumed by bloodlust.  It is the way of a barbarian and the way of Gruumsh.  Immoral perhaps to a more civilised sort of entity but such luxuries as parley are not often extended to those who live constantly on the brink of death in pursuit of a better world.

Prejudice?  I assume you mean the goblins.  Yes, I am.  I would invite any rational rebuttal to my argument that they are not, with ludicrously rare exception, thieving, murderous, primitive mongrels.  Nothing positive can be attributed to them save for their unholy fertility.

My regret was never insincere.  I have only killed when necessary.  I carry in my heart the memories of every kill, of every victim.  I remember and honour each of them, though they all sought to similarly end my life.  Even the creature who struck me down was a brother or sister in a way.  Would I do it again?  If necessary.  Would I ever celebrate or promote this way of life?  Never, but I have lived it to the best of my ability."

"Would the divine representation like to contribute any thoughts?"

"No."

"On to the positives.  We recognise the title of the judged.  Hero of Sandpoint.  We acknowledge their dedication to their faith, the strength of their convictions and their quick action to defend their companions."

"I would like to correct that.  I was not the Hero of Sandpoint.  We were.  The others represented the thoughts and actions which lead to our success and recognition.  I was just the muscle."

"We thank you for your honesty.  Gorum, your thoughts?"

"None."

"Then the time of judgement has come.  Not a blameless life but one that was not wasted.  Tung is a living representation of slaughter but with a tarnished, skewed personal sense of honour.  Gorum, your verdict?"

"He will join me."

The suit of armour turned on its heel and began to march.  "Come."  Tung walked toward the light it had occupied, followed further into the darkness beyond.  It grew colder and Tung could smell something damp.  He still could not see Gorum but he could hear the heavy metallic footfalls.

"So... you don't talk much.  Do you speak Orc?"

"Yes."

"Will there be others where we are going?"

"Yes."

"Will they speak-"

"Yes.  All share a common language."

"I don't speak Common well."

"Not Common.  A common tongue."

There was a damp sensation in the air.  Faint dripping noises from the darkness.  Even with his species' night vision, it was still too dark to see.

"This is a cave?"

"Yes."

"How large is this structure?  It did not look that large.  We must have been walking for half an hour now."

"You think too literally."

"We have not travelled?"

"We have travelled countless miles."

Tung thought about this for a while.  He couldn't make any sense of it.  He struggled for another topic.  He wasn't sure how conversations were meant to play out with a divine being but he was finding Gorum very hard to understand.

"Will my eye and arm be restored?"

"Unlikely.  Most souls retain the form they associated with their prime.  If not, many in the afterlife would be elderly for all eternity.  No paradise, that."

"Hmm.  So if I have no eye... is Gruumsh dead, then?"

"He is not my concern, nor yours.  But no."

"Then..."

"He went home."

"Will he come back?"

"It is possible."

Tung reached to scratch at his old slave brand.  He stopped.  It was a bad nervous habit.

"I hope I did not overstep my boundaries by referring to myself as the Arm of Gorum."

"You did."

"Oh... you don't approve?"

"No."

"Will... I be punished?"

"No.  But do not use that name again."

"I thought it would be a way to honour you."

The armour stopped.  It turned, a faint grey light shining from where its presumed face was from behind its visor.

"You honour Gorum through fair combat.  Your skill and conduct in combat is why you were brought here.  Physical sacrifice, effigy, mutilation are not appreciated.  These are the tools of tyrant gods.  Cease this discussion.  We are almost home."

After some time, a tiny point of light grew in the distance.  Brighter and brighter as they grew nearer, Tung could eventually make out a land on the other side.  He could see blue sky and grass.  It became clear that they were in a long, long tunnel cut through a mountain.  They emerged and stood looking over vast, grassy plains.  Great purple snow-capped mountains to the north, a wide lake to the east.

"So what happens now?"

"It is your choice.  Some choose to join the company of others, some choose to spend the time in quiet contemplation.  Some simply explore the realm.  The majority fight."

"Fight what?"

"Each other.  Monstrous creatures.  If you desire combat, combat will find you here.  It will be fair and it will be challenging.  Your skills as a warrior will flourish and thrive if that it what you desire."

"What would you like me to do?"

"Be content."

Tung turned from the grandeur of the scenery and saw that Gorum had gone.  Maybe he had never been there to begin with.  Tung had meant to ask what held the armour up, what Gorum looked like inside but... maybe that wasn't important.  Gorum didn't seem to approve of him.  Maybe he just wasn't a communicative person.  Probably all that armour, Tung thought.  It must make it hard to relate to people.  He looked at his axe arm.  Serrated Fang would be with him always, now.  He would never forget the family he'd named it after.

He sat for a while.  Time didn't seem to pass, here.  It was a pleasant day, clear and cool.  It felt like spring.  He thought about his family and wondered where they were, now.  Maybe still with Gruumsh, taken to a world that they didn't belong to.  That wasn't a nice thought.  He hoped his friends were having a good time, at least.  Probably still alive in the world somewhere.  Maybe he would be allowed to visit.  He hoped Samantha wouldn't be allowed into the afterlife.  Was that a bad thought?  Gorum didn't seem to worry about morality too much so maybe he could think bad thoughts here.  Maybe he didn't want to think bad thoughts any more.  Samantha wasn't so bad, really.  Perhaps he would try to find Demmel.  That sounded like a noble enough goal.

The mountains were comforting.  They reminded him of home so he decided to start his search there.  He stood and began to walk towards them in a distracted kind of way, in no particular rush.  There was a lot to take in here.

"You there.  You new?"

He turned to look for the source of the voice.  Seemingly from nowhere, an orc dressed in furs was watching him with interest.

"Yes.  Do you seek combat?  I am not quite sure how this works."  Ventured Tung.

"No, just talk.  Maybe see the world."  said the stranger, offering a calloused paw in greeting.

A friend.   Tung wondered what other wonders this new world would provide.

2
Rise of the Runelords / Re: The beginning and end of the arm of Gorum
« on: August 14, 2019, 09:31:44 AM »
On meeting the Timothies
---

A few weeks later, Tung walks happily through the long reeds in the swamps outside the city.  He didn't initially care for the name of the Mushfens but he's found the locals hospitable and the environment peaceful.  He's come to make a reasonable home for himself in the wilderness.  The few villages provide should he need worked goods but for the most part, nature gives more than he could ever ask for.  He's stronger now.  He isn't so malnourished and looks more at ease.  Certainly the burning in his gut hasn't subsided but he's learned to live with it.  It's like his missing eye, it's a reminder of a mistake.  No, not a mistake.  It's a lesson.  Life's full of them if you're able to notice them.  Every problem precedes an opportunity.  It's a sunny day and as the early morning sun reflects from his protruding yellow tusks, he smiles and sighs heavily.

As he thoughtfully trails a hand through the green shoots, the soft squelching of mud underfoot, something watches him.  A cave, dark and cool, hides a small tribe of trolls.  Their leader fancies he spies an easy kill.  He will take this lone traveller by surprise, claim the victory alone and cement his position of authority.  He slinks from a deep shadow and lumbers toward his target, heavy footsteps easily masked by the careless footfalls of the oblivious oaf before him.  A glint catches the beast's eye; this foe is armed.  No matter.  He raises an arm bearing a wicked barbed cudgel and aims to cripple the limb before finishing the job.

He strikes.  Not the usual scream nor the meaty thud.  This hits with a metallic clang.  The orc barely notices the blow but quickly spins to face his surprised assailant.

"You make, big, big mistake."

The fight is brief and the details fairly unpleasant.  As the red mists clear, a winded Tung finds his mouth filled with a sour-tasting meat and his axe-arm bloodied.  He careless spits the wad of troll to the ground.  Tung hates trolls.  To his prejudiced mind, they're stupider than most races, maybe even more so than goblins, but cunning and they just don't know when to die.  He wonders how likely it is that this one will get back up now that its head has been crushed.  Hard to tell with trolls.  He idly stamps on the remains for a few moments and looks at them thoughtfully.  No signs of movement.  Maybe his venom will keep it subdued.  Well, at least it will think twice before trying to ambush anybody again.

He hears a noise behind him.  More a collection of noises.  At the cave mouth, he sees a group of trolls watching him with interest.  This could be a problem, who knows how many lie in wait in the dark?  He raises himself to his full, imposing height, wincing as back muscles used to being permanently hunched scream in protest.

"YOU THERE.  YOU TROLLS.  TUNG SEE YOU.  YOU DON'T TRY NOTHING, YOU HEAR TUNG?  TUNG HITS LOTS HARDER WHEN TUNG IS CROSS."

A few of them cock their heads to the side.  They look to the bloodstained orc, they look to their former leader.  The body is foaming slightly.  They discuss something amongst themselves in a slurred language of grunts and wet belches.  They seem to reach a reluctant conclusion.  In single file they troop out of the cave, piggy eyes squinting in the daylight, and stand to attention a stone's throw from Tung.  Some carry makeshift weapons; mostly tree branches and large rocks.  Most stand and stare vacantly at him, occasionally passing various gasses.

"YOU WANT TROUBLE?  YOU GONNA GET TROUBLE IF YOU WANT TROUBLE.  TUNG IS ARM OF GREAT GOD GORUM.  ARM IS MADE OF TROUBLE AND AXE.  TROUBLE TUNG'S MIDDLE NAME.  ALSO TUNG'S LAST NAME."

Tung frowned.  He didn't think he was really making much headway here.  They didn't look impressed.

"What you want Tung do, eh?" he pleaded.  "It hit Tung.  Don't know what you things think that mean but where Tung from, that rude.  Big rude.  Not Tung fault that it decide to die today."

More vacant stares.  The biggest of the group tasted the end of his branch for a while before deciding it to be inedible.

"Tung sorry, okay?  There.  Sorry.  Maybe you be more careful about how you say hello in future, okay?"

Silence.

"You not want fight.  Promise.  Look, Tung show you."

Since language wasn't getting him very far, a problem he was accustomed to, Tung let his actions speak on his behalf.  He raised his axe and slammed it as hard as he was able into one of the more intact piles of gore.  He cleaved a gash into the earth.  The trolls considered this for a second, grunted for a few seconds amongst themselves then set about following this green monster's example.  With every weapon at their disposal, they began to repeatedly strike the corpse.  It was quite a spirited performance.

"NO!  That not what Tung mean!  STOP!"

This seemed to reach them.  They looked at him with confused expressions.

"You go home.  You leave it alone.  It gone, it dead, you show it respect."

Silence.

In frustration, Tung turned to leave.  He rarely allowed himself unnecessary comforts but this had been a trying experience and so tonight, he would find a good tavern and have a hot meal.  He trudged to Magnimar.  As per usual, stares and whispering, quite normal since his recent modification, but now the occasional scream.  That was odd in a civilised place.  He turned to look for the source of the commotion and saw a troop of trolls.

"WHY YOU STILL HERE?"

Silence.  Screaming from the citizens.

"WHAT YOU WANT?"

Silence.  Confused screaming.


Some days later, Tung found himself in the smithy.  Slock was about the one friend he could really talk to in this part of the world and Tung was fond of his company.

"So you see they just won't leave me be."  Tung explained over a battered copper mug of tea.  "I killed one of them, now they follow me like lost puppies.  It's so exasperating.  I'm quite sure they don't speak a word of any civilised language so what am I to do? I certainly can't butcher them.

"Can't you?"  Said the smith with a laugh.  "I'd say you've proved yourself wrong there."

"What, all of them?  They're enormous.  Besides, it would be inhumane.  I mean they're monsters, yes, but the same was said of the likes of us once."

Slock looked out of his window.  Tung had tied the trolls to a stout metal ring that Slock had set into the building to cater to customers with dogs.  One of the trolls was eating a tin water dish.  "Well, I sees it like this.  That one you killed, it was braver than the others, right?  Strikes me that it was their leader.  You gets that with people what judge worth by strength.  Most orcs is like that.  So you kill their biggest, best mate.  Now what does that make you, eh?"

"Oh.  Oh no."

"Yep!"  Slock cackled.  "So either you kill the lot of them or you start working out how to look after them."

Tung thought this through for a while.

"You are wise beyond your years, Slock my friend, and I suspect you to be quite correct.  I'd like to make some purchases, if I may.  have you... oh... say, 10lbs of offcuts and a lump hammer?"

"You're going to leave my shop right now if that's how you plan to kill them."

"Oh, gods no!  No.  Just a project."



Back to the swamp.  The body of the troll has gone, likely regenerated, but appears to have departed in a hurry.  The cudgel has been abandoned.  Not a particularly elegant tool but he can see how it would be effective.  The weight alone would make it quite lethal.  In front of a congregation of incessantly farting trolls, he begins to work, rummaging through a sack of discarded hunks of metal and looking for the most intimidating of them, the sharpest, the most rusty.  One by one, trying his best to perform a craft he doesn't understand, he hammers the detritus into the thick wooden shaft that makes up his forearm.  After plenty of time, sweat and cursing, he is done.  He rises to his feet.  He raises Serrated Fang, now bristling with cruel barbs and blades, above his head.  No longer a beautiful cutting tool, it is now the weapon of a barbarian leader.  He throws his head back and howls a bestial cry to the moon.  His new tribe roar in unison.  Finally, they understand each other.

3
Rise of the Runelords / The beginning and end of the arm of Gorum
« on: August 14, 2019, 09:31:02 AM »
Before Tung's return to Sandpoint
---

An orc shambles unsteadily through the streets of Magnimar.  Not a totally unusual sight in a city of this size but this fellow is drawing attention and plenty of it.  Tung is used to the stares of other people and he's used to knowing that he's being spoken about in hushed tones.  None of this bothers him.  Certainly not as much as the pain he's in.

He looks up and down the street he's stood on.  It's a familiar place but not that familiar and he's having trouble getting his bearings.  He sniffs the air.  There it is.  Incense.  He follows his nose to a temple, the one that only a short while ago restored a dear old friend to his former glory.

Despite the late hour, an acolyte came to greet the traveller.  A young elven lady, having been assigned the graveyard shift due to her low ranking in the church, stepped forward.

"Welcome weary traveller, how may we be of... OH, HEAVENS PRESERVE ME!"

Tung stood, swaying slightly.  His entire right arm was missing below the elbow and the stump was still bleeding heavily.  He felt quite light headed now.  He knew a little about healing and he knew light headed meant something bad but it was getting a little harder to really organise his thoughts.  That was also bad.

"Tung, follower of Gorum.  Need assistance.  Please.  Been accident.  Maybe need sit down, too."

And with that, Tung slumped face first to the ground.

He awoke somewhere nice.  It was cool and there was clean linen underneath him.  Sunlight.  He wondered for a while if maybe this was the afterlife but decided, all considered, that this was unlikely.  The astonishing pain radiating from his right arm was proof against that.  He tried to sit up.  The room began to spin.  Maybe sleep was best for now.  He imagined what Gruumsh would have to say about this.  He smiled.  Things were so much better, even now.

A fabric partition around what he assumed to be a bed of sorts parted and in walked a priest.  An older human man, unfamiliar but with a kind face.

"Well, well, well.  Tung, is it?  We have been in the wars, haven't we?"

"No."

The man looked at him quizzically for a moment but quickly remembered that some racial stereotypes were unfortunately rather well earned.

"I am sorry, it is a figure of speech.  You've been rather badly injured, I mean.  Now, would you care to tell me how it happened or would you prefer that I didn't know?  Rest assured that anything said here will remain in the strictest confidence."

"Tung not speak Common very well.  Getting better at it.  Not good yet.  You speak Orc?"

"Regrettably no.  I could send for a translator if necessary?"

"Thanks.  No need.  Tung climbing.  Training.  Gorum needs strength, Tung strong but not as strong as Orc should be.  Fell.  Arm broken, stuck in crack."

He could tell that the priest wasn't buying his story but, unfortunately, it was the plain truth.  He'd been practicing what he considered essential non-combat skills.  Swimming, running, survival skills and the like.  A trip up a nearby mountain had resulted in tragedy when a gust of wind had upset his balance.

"I see.  And... you were there for how long?"

"Dunno.  3 day?"

"Without food or water?"

"Snow."

"Okay, but food?  You do not carry a pack or other carrier, I notice.  You did not have rations?"

"No.  After 2 day, arm go black and stop hurting.  Couldn't move fingers.  Think it died.  Cut it this morning.  Dug it out of rock.  Weak.  Hungry.  Ate it."

Tung related the full story.  He certainly knew that a loss of sensation in a limb and a change of colour was very serious.  The arm simply needed to be removed and that was that.  It wasn't his arm any more, it was dead flesh.  To Tung, there was no difference between it and a side of beef.  Any unnecessary burden had to be eliminated.

The priest, paling as the story was related, looked at him for a very long time once Tung had stopped talking.

"Well, that is quite the tale.  I think I would suggest that you do not relay it to anybody in polite company and I will press you no further for details.  Now, we have a number of options available for treatment.  Restoration is very popular but generally an expensive option.  Some prefer to simply heal the wound and wear concealing garments.  A robe or loose fitting shirt can hide many things."

"No clothes.  Get in the way.  Cultural thing, human not understand."

"Of course, of course.  The other option would be a prosthetic."

"What."

The priest sighed internally.

"A replacement limb.  New arm, yes?  The practice is in its infancy at the moment but it is quite amazing what a skilled craftsman can come up with given enough time."

Tung considered this carefully.

"A new arm.  Made out of something not-arm?"

"Wood is the common choice."  Said the priest with an encouraging smile.  "Some nobles favour precious metals which, frankly, is a little vulgar to my mind.  Ceramic can suit those who work in hot environments.  Bakers and such.  Metals are popular among those who work in dangerous environments who, coincidentally, tend to be those who most require prosthetic replacements."

"That.  Tung want that."

"As you wish.  We would ask for a token donation for the cost of the healing magic used to bind your flesh but..." the priest's eyes briefly took in Tung's lack of clothing and non-lethal belongings "Well, this is, of course, entirely optional."

Tung pulled a lump of hacksilver from his loincloth.  It was the size of his fist and distressingly warm.

"You save Tung life.  You save Jiro.  Owe great debt.  This cover payment?"

The priest made quiet choking noises as he looked at a modest fortune.

"... that will... do nicely, thank you."


Tung wandered the streets.  A good meal was had which certainly helped his mood.  He entered the artisan's district full of purpose with an uncharacteristic smile on his face.  Purveyors of every service imaginable lined the streets.  Jewelers, carpenters, enchanters... at the end were the smiths.  He could tell by the ambient heat and the smell.  It smelled of good, honest work.  He liked that.  One by one, he tried each of them, tried to explain his needs but was turned away.

"You want a what?!"
"Not worth my reputation, mate."
"Stupid idea, it'll never work."

Until eventually, the last store on the row.  The proprietor was an Orc, clearly well into his old age but with plenty of fight left in him.  But then, you didn't live as an Orc for long without some strength in your bones, not even this deep into civilisation.

"You speak Orc?"

"Aye, just.  It's been a long time since anybody's come speakin' the mother tongue and if I'm honest, I've got soft and slow in my old age but I'll get by, I reckon.  Name's Slock and I'll thank you not to comment on it.  What do you need?"

Tung sighed with relief.  Finally, someone he could talk to.

"Well, this is delightful.  Simply put, sir, I've been afflicted with a minor disability and wish to overcome it with steel and ingenuity."

Slock narrowed his eyes suspiciously.  "You're not from these parts, lad, are you?"

"Quite so.  I'm a barbarian by trade and thought it would be quite appropriate, almost poetic in a way, if I were to perhaps have my new physical aid be a representation of my craft."

Slock closed his eyes and carefully parsed the sentence.  "You... want an arm that can grasp a weapon, yes?"

"Almost.  You see, I have a weapon that was once used by my patron to communicate with me.  It was a very significant moment in my life and I want to, in some small way, acknowledge his acceptance in a physical way.  With my very flesh, as it were."

Slock paled.

"Please tell me you wish to have your weapon melted down into a replacement arm."

"No."  Tung braced himself.  This was the tricky part.  "I wish to replace my arm WITH an axe in its entirety."

"Yeah, I was worried that you'd say that.  Look, I'll be straight lad, I won't do it.  It's madness, dedicating a limb to a god.  Unless it's one of them mad evil gods and I don't hold with them.  Anyway, orc with an axe arm, what's people going to say there?  'Oh, look now, here comes that monster with an axe hand.  Run, run, Mr. Choppy-Axe-Hand is coming for your kids!'.  You'll become a bogeyman  I've lived with humans for years, they're all like that.  You need a different kind of smithy for that.  Who are you serving, anyway?"

"Do you know Gorum?"

Slock looked at him carefully.  "Heard of him, yeah.  Respects the steel, he does.  Oh... alright, just hold a moment, will you?"

He stamped heavily on the boards under his feet.

"RANDOLPH, I'VE GOT A LIVELY ONE HERE FOR YA."

The sound of tiny feet moving at unsettling speed.  The sound of a trapdoor quickly opening.  A tiny head popped over the counter, blackened with soot, not a single hair upon it and wearing a pair of heavy smoked goggles on a rotting leather strap.

"Yis?" it squeaked.

Slock began to talk quickly in a language Tung didn't know.  He apologised after a few minutes of this, telling Tung that Randolph only spoke Gnomish.

"Oh, that's quite alright."  Tung said in what he hoped was a polite way.  "I've never met a gnome before."

"Yeah, he ain't a gnome.  He's... he's just like that..."

They went back and forth in a conversation involving many expansive and frantic gestures which sounded more like an argument.  Eventually a piece of parchment was produced and Randolph began to draw rapidly without ever breaking from the conversation.  A further ten minutes of this and then:

"Axe."  Demanded the tiny man.

"What?"

"Axe!  Show Randolph.  Give Randolph."

Serrated Fang was placed on the counter.

Slock eventually closed the shop.  Tung sat on the floor.  Randolph was still drawing and shouting but Slock gently assured Tung that this was just his way and not to worry too much.

"ARM."

"No arm."  Tung hoped this creature understood any Common at all.  "Ate it."

"Good arm, good arm!  MEA-SURE-MENT."

Tung lay his arm on the counter.  It was, with incredible speed, wrapped tightly in gauze which was painted with an unidentifiable, evil-smelling gel.

"And... what happen now?"

Slock was obviously trying not to laugh at this point.

"You wait." spluttered Randolph  "Cast dry.  Eight hour."

"But it's night ti-"

"EIIIIIGHT!" Randolph shrieked.

And so Tung stood until morning.  Food was provided, solid orc fare the likes of which he hadn't tasted in years.  It made him homesick.  Having to be fed due to his lack of limbs was embarassing but Slock seemed to find it hilarious.  Throughout the night, Randolph stood and simply stared, unmoving, at the arm.  He never lit so much as a candle nor removed his goggles.  Tung was becoming deeply afraid of him.

Morning came and without warning, the man sprang into action, scoring a line down the cast and breaking it into two with a small hammer.

"Mould!  Come back, five days."

The tiny head retreated.  The sound of a trapdoor.  Tiny feet scampering down stone stairs.

"What, exactly, is that creature?"

"He's human biologically but really, he's just Randolph, lad, and I don't ask any more questions than that.  Alls I know is he came with the building and I'll be damned if I'm going to try to make him leave.  He gives me the willies.  Now he's either going to invoice you on receipt of goods or he's going to forget, in which case there's usually no charge.  Payment is his own business and I've given up on reminding him.  Best bring some coin on the day just in case."

Tung took in as much of the city, its sights and culture as he was permitted to.  Being a large and heavily populated area he wasn't as discriminated against as he was used to.  Certainly some clothing would have helped significantly but then, Magnimar was open minded and used to barbarians.  5 days later, back to the shop.  Randolph was already at the counter along with a concerned-looking Slock.

"YOU.  ORC.  How strong spirit?"

Tung looked at him carefully.

"Tung... has faith in Gorum?"

"NOT RELIGION.  MIND.  How strong mind?!"

"Oh."  Tung didn't understand the relevance.  "Not good."

Randolph's usual screaming lowered to a normal speaking volume.  "Orc drink big-big?"

"Not much."

Randolph bit his lower lip.  "Might be that it is being good time to starting?"

"No."

Randolph reached up to the counter top, straining under the weight of a bundle wrapped in linen.  He unwrapped a device comprising a gleaming metal elbow joint mounted to a thick wooden shaft which had been carved into a beautiful copy of an orc arm, accurate down to even the popping veins.  At its end, where a wrist would start, was the head of Serrated Fang.  He undid a clasp at the elbow joint which opened the end of the contraption revealing a vast array of gears and neat metal cabling.

Randolph began to yell again.  "Randolph explain procedure.  Then orc decide.  Here anchor pin.  We HAMMER directly into bone.  Tensor cables wire directly into tendons.  PAINFUL.  DANGEROUS.  You understanding Randolph?!"

Tung slowly nodded.  He had endured much these past months but this tiny, screaming human was too intimidating to defy.  He reminded Tung of Gruumsh.  He simply stated how the world was going to work and it changed accordingly.  Instead of rage, Randolph spoke in mechanisms.

"Just do your work."  Tung told him quietly.  He could feel himself beginning to cry.  Slock solemnly locked the shop door.  There would be no further custom today.

4
Rise of the Runelords / Tung: a user's guide
« on: May 07, 2019, 12:52:58 PM »
Goblins
   Can Jiro see or is anybody likely to tell him?
      Will Gorum care about the circumstances?
         Kill them
         ELSE kill them but apologise
      ELSE is Jiro going anywhere soon?
         Wait 5 minutes, return to "Can Jiro see...?"
         ELSE grumble

Combat
   Ask Jiro if we need to keep any of the targets intact
      Try not to forget which ones but maybe accidentally do it anyway then apologise
      ELSE smash
   Can I hit it?
      Smash
      ELSE use less power attack.  Can I hit it now?
         Smash
         ELSE uh... can Jiro or Beshka do any weird buff stuff?
            Smash with caution
            This has literally never happened.  ABORT.
   Is it dead?
      Are you raging?
         Eat it up, yum-yum
         ELSE feel revulsion at what you have become.  Then kill something else
      ELSE is it Jiro?
         OH GOD, IT'S HAPPENING AGAIN.  DON'T EAT IT.
      ELSE is it Samantha?
         Your dark task has come to completion.  Definitely eat it.
      ELSE return to "Can I hit it?"

Social interaction
   Does it speak Orc?
      You're probably going to kill it soon, let's be honest
      ELSE ask if it speaks Orc a few more times
   Is it friendly?
      It won't be if you keep talking to it.  Go do something else
      ELSE try really hard to make friends, no matter how angry it gets, especially if it's Venn Vinder.
   Is it in a position of authority?
      Bellow at it, tell it that you disagree with its philosophy/religion
   Has the conversation lasted for more than 5 minutes?
      Let somebody else handle it.  Ask Garren for synopsis later.  Garren doesn't mince words.  We like Garren.

Information gathering
   Can we help with Knowledge religion or nature?
      Feel like the smartest person in the universe
      ELSE find something pretty to look at


Are you working with...
Jiro
   You owe him a life debt.  Defend at all costs.

Beshka
   You are not sure if she is literally a child and at this point are afraid to ask.  Defend at all costs.

Icarus
   PEEP PEEP PEEP
   Kind of a cool guy

Fripflop
   You find him charming in an undefinable way.  You are convinced that Samantha is somehow his wife, his daughter and his craft project.  Weirder things happen where you come from, though.

Samantha
   You think she is fear personified and would destroy her were you not convinced that she is full of spiders and darkness.

Garren
   You think he's a kindred spirit.  Gets sad about things sometimes when he should just burp lightning at them.

Sabina
   You are trying to work out how to kill her before she tries to steal your magic eyeball.  You think she is 3 people and you don't know if you trust any of them.

Gorum
   You aren't sure if he's listening but it seems to make Jiro happy to know you're worshipping him.

5
Rise of the Runelords / Re: The eye of Gruumsh closes
« on: May 02, 2019, 12:22:06 PM »
It's a bit of a shame to waste it so in the best tradition of DVD special features, there was an alternative ending that I'd written several months before Tung's salvation via Jiro.  His story wasn't meant to have a happy ending.  It's been a really interesting campaign for actual, real character growth and I've had a lot of fun with watching the way it's been playing out.  This picks up from around the end of Tung's Eye-of-Gruumsh death vision (which in this story was his actual death and not just a preview).

There it ended.  One moment Tung stood in the presence of his lifelong tormentor, on the verge of complete annihilation.  The next... nothing.  Gruumsh was gone.  No protest, no pain, no retaliation.  He'd truly believed himself invincible.  What a pitiful creature.

That was it, then.  Tung sat for a while in case any roaming gods did claim him.  None did.  He scratched a dirt-encrusted claw thoughtfully at a still-vacant eye socket.  Gruumsh hadn't restored that along with his youth and judging by a familiar itch at his back, nor had his slave brand been healed.  Hardly a surprise.

He'd read there was a special place for souls without faith and that it wasn't a nice place.  This clearly wasn't that place.  Perhaps if you lost your faith in a place like this, the rules were different.

The storm overhead was clearing.  It was no doubt caused by Gruumsh for dramatic effect.  It wasn't really that dark here, not when you properly looked at it.  It was dry and warm, the wind was refreshing in a way and the metallic smell...  well, there were worse fates.  Some plants would have been nice.  Maybe there would be plants later, now that Gruumsh wasn't here.  There certainly didn't seem to be any way to leave without One Eye to deliver him.  Tung stood, reflexively reaching for an old axe that was no longer at his side.  Maybe for the best that it was gone.  All considered, abandoning the path of violence and slaughter was probably a good idea now.  He didn't need to impress any more.  A pacifist barbarian, now wouldn't that be something?  A fine story to tell if he ever met another intelligent being.  He made his way to the distant mountains in the hopes of finding a better vantage point.

He would wander for many more years through this barren land, not that time had much meaning.  It was a peaceful period of his existence.  A deity, wandering the edges of what most gods considered a barren celestial wasteland with no value did eventually discover the lonely, radiant, tarnished but well intentioned soul of a hero walking a forgotten and long abandoned plane in search of itself.  Tung was gently returned to his world and the death he'd been denied.  The pain was severe but brief.  It was closure, at least.

---

Again, a change of perspective.  No sensation of movement, just somewhere else.  A dark place, most things were grey and made of stone.  Tung didn't like that.  There was a large building ahead of him, tall, black and imposing.  It filled him with a sense of dread.  He looked around and saw he was in an open courtyard outside of a spire with many doors.  He was surrounded by countless other people, each looking toward the spire with a sense of... impatience?  He looked to his nearest neighbour.

"You speak Orc?"

"Nay, brother, but it hardly matters here.  We all speak a common language in this place."

"Not so good at Common.  You have to excuse Tung."

"No, no.  I mean... ah, just speak your mind, you will understand soon enough."

Tung's brow furrowed.  He wasn't sure that he would.

"Very well."  He ventured.  "So what is this place?"

The other person gave him a look.  A curious gesture as Tung realised it had no physical form.  He could sense that it was humanoid, definitely the right shape, but there was nothing there but a single floating point of light.  He didn't even think he'd heard it speak.  Something was terribly wrong.

"Brother, did you not have a religion when you died?"

"Died?  Oh.  It's happened, then?  Yes, I did have a religion but my old god is dead now."

"That is terrible.  How terrible for you.  I do hope you find fair representation at your time of judgement.  If you don't mind my asking, how did they..."

Tung sniffed.  He shrugged.

"I don't know, really.  I think I killed him.  He tried to kill me and the next thing I knew, he was gone."

There was a long, thoughtful pause.

"Brother, do you understand the term 'deicide'?"

"No."

"Well remember it and know that it will make you very unpopular here."

No further words were shared.  Tung got the impression that he'd caused offense.  He wasn't surprised, it happened rather a lot and he rarely understood why.  Deicide, though, what was that?  Logically, if regicide was the killing of a king then deicide... maybe he shouldn't talk about what happened to Gruumsh?  In truth he didn't know what had happened.  He had suspicions.  Without the constant nagging, belittling voice in his head he was beginning to feel a lot more confident but was getting rid of One Eye a bad thing?  Surely not.  The world was surely better without him.

Tung stared into the sky.  Black.  There was something which looked a little like the moon up there, swollen and glowing in the sky.  He felt like it was looking back at him.  He didn't like that moon.  He didn't like that empty sky.  This place was boring and frightening and he didn't know what to do.  Periodically, one of the points of light would move into the spire.  Maybe he had to wait his turn.  It all seemed very poorly managed.  He reached up to scratch at his vacant eye socket, a usual reaction in times of uncertainty, but found his ioun stone lodged in there.  He reached to his back and found Serrated Fang, his old battleaxe.  Well, wherever he'd gone, at least he'd kept his equipment and could probably fight if he needed to.  His equipment had that same insubstantial quality that his new friend had.  So did his hands and body.  But no matter, Tung knew he was Tung.  Maybe a Tung made of light, maybe a dead Tung but still Tung.  Tung was good at fighting and Tung was good at surviving.  Everything would be fine.

Hours passed.  Maybe days.  Time seemed to lack definition here but not in the same way as in Gruumsh's domain.  He felt a sensation in the back of his head.  It may have been a voice.  It was the same inner voice usually reserved for Gruumsh but it wasn't screaming, it simply stated his name carefully and clearly.  He walked toward the nearest opening in the spire.  Defying this voice didn't seem like a good idea.

Through the opening was darkness.  No definition to anything apart from what he was stood on.  The floor beneath his boots was hard but smoother than the stone flags outside.  Even with the night vision his species was known for, Tung could see nothing.

"The time of judgement is at hand, orc."

Tung squinted quizzically into the gloom.

"What, again?  I did that once.  Not long ago, really.  Who am I speaking to and where am I?" Tung demanded.  He never really did have any respect for authority.

"You are familiar with the Boneyard, yes?"

"Jiro mentioned it.  I'm not familiar, as such.  He had strange beliefs that conflicted with my own and Gruumsh discouraged me from learning about them.  Gruumsh said only he would judge me."

There was a sound.  Almost of laughter echoing through the room from hundreds of voices.  Maybe he had an audience?

"Yes, Gruumsh.  I regret to inform you that you find yourself in quite the unpleasant situation, Tung.  Gruumsh should be here to make a case for ownership of your soul and said case would certainly have been iron clad.  You see, in this place, your actions in life are judged and your eternal reward decided upon accordingly.  You have acted in accordance with the wishes of your god throughout your life..."

"At great personal cost, yes." interrupted Tung.

"Quite.  But Gruumsh no longer has any authority here.  Gruumsh never belonged in your world, Tung, and it appears that he has acted beyond his authority a time too often."

"Does he still live?"

"Gods do not die.  He returned to where he belongs, a place beyond even our knowing.  This leaves you in a precarious position and it is important that you understand the severity of it."

"I always did as instructed."

"By a power hungry tyrant, yes.  And when the tyrant leaves, what of those who upheld their regime?  What reception can they expect in society?  Tung, the fact of the matter is that your religion can now best be described as 'unaffiliated'.  You will not receive the fate of an atheist for you have strong faith.  Or had, at least."

Tung nervously toyed with his ioun stone.

"So where do I go?"

"No good god wants you.  No rational neutral god, either.  A few evil gods have expressed a mild interest but have been rejected.  Lamashtu, for instance, made a particularly impassioned argument for bringing you into her kingdom but not for the right reasons.  Some orc deities would have accepted you, had you not physically pledged yourself to Gruumsh so completely.  Yours is an unorthodox case, Tung, and as such unusual measures are to be taken.  Your judgement is to be perfectly impartial."

"Oh."

"Your fate is to be decided entirely upon on the strength of your actions in life.  As such, you will be assigned to an afterlife that reflects those actions.  Do you understand?"

"I always acted in the best of intentions and for the right reasons."

"Your lack of remorse is noted.  Do you understand?"

"I did not mean to state that I lack remorse!"

"Do you understand?"

Tung slowly nodded.

"Yes."

"Tung, last of the Serrated Fang tribe, you stand proven of countless acts of violence, vandalism, desecration, murder, intolerance, prejudice and petty theft.  Many of these crimes involved those too weak or too young to help themselves.  Many of these crimes were committed without provocation.  You are free to deny or otherwise justify these actions if you believe it will aid your case.  Do you wish to state anything in your defence?"

"Would it truly make a difference?"

"Perhaps.  Anything is possible."

"I entirely agree."

With that, in a desperate attempt to preserve himself, Tung allowed the rage to take hold one last time.  What other chance did he have?  After all, he'd banished a god, albeit by chance, so maybe he was capable of winning.  Already charging, his hand barely reached his axe before he felt one more shift of perspective accompanied by one last stern internal voice.

"There is no need to consider the evidence.  The orc on trial has made their own choice."

It would be nice to imagine he had a peaceful afterlife and a reward that he'd earned after years of struggle but unfortunately, not every story deserves a happy ending.  Tung had, for all his good acts, not been a fundamentally good person at heart.  His choice of god, his actions, prejudices and beliefs, all were taken into consideration.  All a result of choices he had consciously made.  He would receive what he had always wanted.  Gruumsh had lied, their souls had not been destroyed at all and at long last, he would find himself in the company of the Serrated Fang tribe.  He would live in torment with his family for all eternity.

---

In another time and another place, Gruumsh has been dragged against his will to somewhere else.  He feels the anguish of his former worshipper, now trapped in a terrible place.  Self-important, miserable ingrate.  The wretched little gob of phlegm deserved everything he got.  You give yourself entirely and what thanks in return?  What reward?  A rage began to brew within his mighty chest fuelled by entitlement and bitter frustration.  That felt more familiar.  As did the place he was stood.  Ah, of course, his old domain!  To be home again was wonderful.  To be reunited with his legions of frenzied worshippers and the sustaining might of their faith.  To...

That smell... that malodorous ELF still lived.

Larethian.

Gruumsh howled impotently into the sky.  His followers had failed him again!  On the material place of Greyhawk one million faithful orcs, one million hearts united in newly rekindled anger, each one howled in unknowing unison.  Their god had returned.


The eyes of Gruumsh were open again.

6
Rise of the Runelords / A crumpled, stained note
« on: May 02, 2019, 12:16:39 PM »
A few months ago, I paid a small amount to have a literate citizen of Sandpoint write a letter on Tung's behalf.  It was right after we brought back Jiro when thoughts of "what happens when we die?" were at the forefront of Tung's mind.  The below is that letter.  If he dies in combat in any future session, this will be somewhere among his belongings, probably crumpled up and stashed in a secure fold of his loincloth.  Just thought I'd post this since I was going to at some point later on, anyway.

After several IC weeks of being exposed to blood and sweat, it's a dreadful object.




Hello,

If you are reading this, I have died and you have found my body.

I hope you know who I am already.  If you do not, I am Tung.  I am a member of the Serrated Fang tribe but they are dead and will not be able to help you.

My tribe do not have any burial rites.  Traditionally we eat our dead but you probably do not want to do this.  I will not ask you to.  Do with my body what you will.  It would be nice if it were used for something nice, maybe to help some plants to grow.

If I am carrying any goods of value, please return them to my friends.  My friends are Jiro, Fripflop, Beshka, Garren and Sabina.  They are probably somewhere near Sandpoint.  Ask around for Fripflop because he is a frog and will stand out.

Please leave me with at least one weapon.  It does not have to be a good one.  It would be nice if it was a good one but it does not have to be.  I need to be able to defend myself when I get to whatever happens after this life.  It is very important to my identity.

Please do not attempt to resurrect me.  I will not come back if you do.  If I am dead I am with my god now and he will probably get very angry if I try to leave him so I will not leave him.  I have not lived a good life and I am unlikely to do better with a second chance.  If I die in combat and I die defending a good cause or a good person, that is probably the best I can hope to do.

I am sorry that you had to find me.  I hope it did not upset you.

If you knew who I was then goodbye and I am sorry I could not do better.  I am sorry I could not be a better Tung.  I hope I was enough.



Tung of the Serrated Fang, Eye of Gruumsh.


"Eye of Gruumsh has been crossed out.  An addendum has been added in Orc.  It is in considerably less neat handwriting, looking more drawn than written.

At the time of writing, I am no longer a worshipper of Gruumsh.  Despite this, please do not attempt to resurrect me if the opportunity arises as I will not return.  I have already had my second chance and am satisfied with the life I have lead.  In death, I hope to find peace and in that peace, I hope you too find closure.

Thank you.

7
Student Nationals / Re: Nationals 2020
« on: April 15, 2019, 12:03:28 PM »
Neither of those things are bad things.

8
Rise of the Runelords / An awkward exchange
« on: April 04, 2019, 02:14:11 PM »
In a quiet corner of the Copper Dragon sits a moderately disfigured and scarred orc.  He stares at a blank sheaf of papers covered in marks.  Some would charitably call them "words".  He occasionally jabs at one with a stick of charcoal, adding more marks.  He is clearly trying very hard to do something but isn't quite grasping it.  He occasionally roars in frustration and pounds the table before stomping off to buy more paper.  He's attracting attention from around the bar but definitely not assistance.

The following text has been edited to remove the worst of the spelling errors, grammatical atrocities and unsettling stains.


Dear mother and father.

I don't think you can read this.  I don't think you can read but I think you can't read this because you are dead.  I am sorry that you are dead.  I have been practicing my letters every day and am getting quite good.  I have been practicing my Common too but I am not yet so good at Common.  Orc is easy to talk in but not so good to write in.  Don't think I'm ready to write in Common yet.

I have turned my back on the way of Gruumsh.  He was not a good god and Jiro told me it was bad to do things because he shouted at me.  Jiro was right.  I am looking for a god who will better accept me for who I am and what I can offer.  I am not sure who that is yet but I am sure that the correct choice will make itself known to me in time.  The priests say that the gods have mysterious ways.  I don't know what that means.  Gruumsh always had really straightforward ways.

Now he is gone, I hope you are in a better place.  I hope you are in any place, really.  I hope you didn't get sent somewhere bad when your god went away.

Tung can't send this to you.  Don't think post person goes to where you are.  Well... maybe Tung could give letter to post person and then Tung could kill post person... no.  That is stupid idea.  Tung will hold on to it, give it to you when he dies.  Maybe Tung will go to the same place.  That would be nice.

Tung miss you, mother.  Tung miss you, father.  Miss the others too.  Tung will do his best for you.  Better than he did for bad, gone Gruumsh.




Later now, up on Chopper's Isle.  Tung sits and meditates.  Like the last time, he feels peaceful and also like the last time, something is preying on his mind but without the same dread as before.  He no longer hears the voice in his head urging him to further and further violence, he is beginning to feel happier and more confident in himself.  So he sits and he waits.  Open your heart, they said, and the right god will find you.  A lot of thoughts are running through his head.  They're hard to control.  He imagines violence and bloodshed.  Not that uncommon, really, it comes with the rage.  Part of the price to pay for the power, maybe.  But there's something else, now.  He feels an urge not to kill, not like Gruumsh wanted him to, but to fight.  To win.  Death is simply a means to an end but that end goal is conquest.  Success.  Might, not as a tool to destroy but to assert.  He feels something touch his back.  He reaches around with some difficulty and when he withdraws his hand, it's bright red and wet.  He does not notice any pain, no wounds.  Serrated Fang, his unimaginatively named axe, is dripping with blood.  Tung is certain that he cleaned it recently.

A name resonates in his mind.  Gorum.


Tung... does not know the proper way to talk to a god.  Tung is sorry.  Tung will learn if Tung meets priest of... Gorum?  Is you Gorum?  That is good name.  Sound bit like orc name.  Does you speak orc?

Tung waits for a moment.  It becomes obvious that the incredibly personal service he is used to receiving from his god can't be expected from a major deity.

Maybe you does.  Maybe you doesn't.  Tung will pray in Common.  Tung is sorry, Common is not good language for Tung.  Tung's mouth does not like the words, finds them hard.  Tung will try.

Tung fighter.  Barbarian fighter.  Tung hits things until they don't hit back and when things keep hitting back very well, Tung gets cross and bites them.

Tung worshipped Gruumsh before.  Maybe you know Gruumsh.  Is you one of the... om... ni... one of the gods what knows all there is to know?  Gruumsh said he was.  Lied.  Maybe you is.  You probably weren't friends, Gruumsh didn't like friends.  I hear a lot about you, though!  God of combat, yeah?  Tung like that.  Combat is what Tung does.  Combat and learning things, Tung likes that.  Tung would be happy to fight for Gorum if Gorum would have Tung.  Tung do some bad things.  Maybe Gorum will have to forgive some of them.  Tung deserve punishment for some of them but tries to be better, now.  Jiro helps with that.

Tung has lots of friends who fight with him.  Please look after them; they all good people.  They not good fighters like Tung is but they fight in other ways which are also good.  I seen picture of you, you look like big empty living armour.  Maybe you similar sort of thing to Samatha.  She big empty girl who good fighter.  She frightening.  She get worse every passing day.  You maybe know Jiro already because he died one time but came back so he probably seen you in afterlife.  He nice.  Thinks about stuff a lot.  Garren is also nice.  Talks to Tung lots.  Gets almost as angry as Tung does.  He... social outcast like orc are, we have lots in common.  Beshka is like child human but is not child.  She do magic.  Not stupid wizard magic, earth magic.  Better magic.  She keep bird that like god of birds.  Big, angry bird.  Icarus.  Icarus talk lots too; they pretty good for a bird!  Fripflop is frog but not frog.  Talking frog.  Dunno how, maybe magic make him talk.  Strange frog.  Good friend, thoughtful about pretty things.  Samantha either his wife or his daughter or his pet or all three.  Dunno about Sabina.  Sabina contains a few people, don't think Tung trusts any of them.  They fight good with bow like elf would but they tricky.  Fine for now, though.  Bodger... bodger would make good barbarian.  Bodger is dangerous, dangerous thing.  Don't know about their pet.  Bodger likes skin but not when it's attached to living stuff.  Don't know how Beshka feels about that, Beshka likes things to have skin on them.

Tung is on long, noble quest to kill goblins what threaten safety of town of Sandpoint.  Sandpoint people are good and help Tung and his friends.  Friends think we trying to find runelords.  Don't know about that.  We found out some things about them but they seem like they dead now.  Goblins are bigger threat.  Goblins are bad news for good people, that's why Tung kills them.  Not good for fighting, too weak, but okay for eating.

Investigating murder right now.  Bit complicated.  Think magic involved so ain't no understanding anything because magic not something we can understand.  All lights and then boom, your friend is in 20 pieces.  Magic not good.  Tung know about magic.

Hope Gorum don't mind prayers.  Must seem like small thoughts compared to all the thoughts Gorum must listen to.  If Gorum offers guidance, Tung will obey.  Tung ready for better new start.

Tung thank Gorum for listening.

9
Rise of the Runelords / Re: Meanwhile, at the Rusty Dragon...
« on: April 03, 2019, 07:03:22 AM »
Dunno.  She had all them books and stuff.  Definitely reading about something.  Either means she's a wizard or she's trying to learn about something.

Suppose she was a bit of a wizard.  Did that holy magic stuff.

10
Rise of the Runelords / Re: Meanwhile, at the Rusty Dragon...
« on: March 30, 2019, 10:18:44 PM »
... huh.  Good question.  Maybe she not sure she could control it.  Lamashtu bit fickle, probably give with one hand, take with other.  Maybe she hope we find big important door in greedy treasure vault, we think "hey ho, this where all GOOD stuff is", next thing BAM, starved goblin wolf in face.

Or maybe she want to be sure that goblin wolf know people is coming.  Big puzzle door opens, ain't no sneaking once you do a big thing like that.

11
Rise of the Runelords / Re: Meanwhile, at the Rusty Dragon...
« on: March 30, 2019, 11:04:32 AM »
Probably just be a weaker wolf.  Like a smarter wolf but a weaker wolf.

Still die like anything else if you hit it enough.

12
Rise of the Runelords / Re: Meanwhile, at the Rusty Dragon...
« on: March 29, 2019, 10:01:03 PM »
Might have heard of skinsaw before.  Sound like one of them... you know, them stories.  You tells your kids stories when they's bad, makes them be good.

Good name for serial killer.  Maybe just some bad man with a knife.  Bad... slimy dead man.  Yeh.  Probably not man.

*Tung idly chews a lump of gristle from a dubious pouch*

Nualia were that angry?  Seemed sort of alright to Tung.  Not as angry as all that.  Lursa, SHE were angry.  Angry and bad.  Maybe Nualia just not have rage.  Know that when Tung see it.  Best that she dead.  Not so angry now.  For such small town, so much bad here.  Wonder why?  What happen here?  Maybe just unlucky place.

Goblin wolf?  Nah.  You gets goblin, you gets wolf.  They don't like dogs, ain't no goblin gonna make a goblin wolf.  How would that work?  Maybe wizard or something.  Goblin probably not even ride wolf unless it nailed on.  Bet you it's starved by now though.  And we went to lots of places in that statue, not many places to hide a wolf.  Maybe in them caves.  Wolf need food, no food in there.  Unless it stupid magic.  Stupid magic wolf could live without food.

Magic is stupid.

13
Rise of the Runelords / Re: The eye of Gruumsh closes
« on: March 25, 2019, 08:56:14 PM »
All was darkness.  in the back of Tung's mind, a familiar voice, booming but petty and dripping with insincerity mocked him.

"So now you know your history.  You, bold orc, who thinks himself above the gods.  Who thinks himself above consequence.  One more boon, well deserved.  Another that your kin likely never spoke of.  Would you like to see a potential death, young one?  Would you like to know precisely what the Eye of Gruumsh is for?"

Another time.  Another place.

It was time to say goodbye to the world.  Tung knew his death was coming and had but a short time to react to it.  He did what came naturally to him in times of crisis.  He offered a sincere prayer to his god, a god he still worshiped and had for his entire life.

Tung found himself in a strange place that he'd never been to before.  He had no recollection of traveling here.  It was dark, wherever 'here' was.  Barely visible in the distance were sharp, towering mountains lit by a tiny, struggling sun.  He seemed to be stood on a plain of earth and stone, barren and lifeless.  Occasionally the dark sky was illuminated with flashes of vivid green lightning.  There was a metallic smell in the air which reminded him of fresh wounds and he could feel a strong, warm wind around him.

Tung's death wasn't about to be spectacular.  Hadn't... been spectacular?  Had it already happened?  The past tense was probably something he should get accustomed to soon.  He didn't remember much about how it had come about.  It hadn't come as a surprise, he remembered that much, and he'd been disappointed at the time.  Still so much to do, so many things to experience.  Ah, but wasn't that the way for everybody?  It had been a good life, though.  Accomplished.  Plenty of regrets accrued whilst pursuing those accomplishments, yes, and so many lives taken by a being that once treasured all life but that was the way of the barbarian.  He had always felt justified in his killing.  He felt regret but not shame.  His view on morality was never especially complex.  Some things simply deserved to die and that was that.  This time it was him.  He hoped it had been a good death.

He sat.  He could pray, yes.  Wasn't he praying a moment ago?  Recent memory had left him, all he knew was the now and the then but very little detail in between.  Prayer was certainly an appropriate course of action in times of confusion but then, he was clearly dead.  About to be dead.  The transition was more confusing than he'd expected but without confirmation and without memory of the moment that it happened, he couldn't be sure.  This was possibly some kind of afterlife; it certainly looked like one.  He wasn't sure what happened to prayer once you crossed over but hopefully since he was nearer to them, the gods could still hear him.  He looked at his now-naked self, stripped of clothing and weapons.  He was young.  He had become an old man so gradually that he hadn't noticed it but joints no longer hurt, teeth felt stronger, senses sharper.  Youth.  Invigorating youth.  To be young again was an exquisite joy.

He'd heard that before you went to your last reward, you went somewhere.  Somewhere appropriate to you and your beliefs.  Was this the prelude to the afterlife?  That seemed about right.  Nowhere like this existed on Golarion.  It looked like... like somebody had brought him back to the heart of the Devil's Teeth mountain range but everything was wrong.  Bent into all the wrong shapes.  It felt like the world was ending, like this place didn't have long left to exist before being consumed in blood and fire.  What a strange sensation.  Blood suited this place.  It was sharp.  Everything was sharp and where it wasn't, it was desolate.

He looked up as he heard footsteps, slow and heavy.  A humanoid shape in the distance, silhouetted against the lightning, was growing nearer.  It was obscenely large, dozens of feet tall, carrying a spear longer than the bearer was tall and with every step seemed to grow, faster than a trick of perspective could explain.  The only visible detail on the dark mass at this distance was a single glowing point of green light in the centre of what was presumably its head.

"The time of judgment is at hand, Tung."

Gruumsh stopped, close enough now to see quite clearly.  He was terrible to behold.  Clearly orc but everything comically exaggerated.  Too many fangs, physique developed to impossible proportions, an odour so strong it was almost tangible, body literally stained with blood.  So much blood.  He must have bathed in blood.  Clad in nothing but a loincloth, every muscle gleamed with sweat, a chaotic mass of veins visible on every inch of his obscene body.  His very presence was profane.  This god, this beast regarded his follower with a single, crusted, grotesque eye, lips curled into a disapproving sneer.

Tung began to cry gently.  Not out of sorrow, not out of fear.  There was no emotion, it simply seemed the only appropriate reaction.

"Is this all there is after we die, my lord?"

"You have yet to die, Tung.  You are as close to it as it is possible to be but have not quite perished.  But for you, yes, this is your afterlife.  This is my domain.  It is a place of struggle and conflict.  There is no law here, only blood and the satisfaction of ceaseless violence.  Here you will find fulfillment through toil and combat for the rest of eternity.  This is your reward, Tung, and a rare boon indeed.  To live one final, eternally prolonged moment in my service and to obey my will until the end of all things."

"Jiro says when you die your soul is offered up for judgment.  He says representatives from the different afterlives bid for you."

"And you expect an ELF to understand Orc religion?  He was wrong.  He was lying to you."

"Do... mother and father live in this land and fight by your side?  Does my tribe endure?"

"They do not.  They lost their lives at the hands of HUMANS.  They called to me for salvation, they cried, they pleaded, claimed their right to survive on the strength of their faith.  They were unworthy of sharing this bounty, undeserving of my generous gifts.  Their souls were cast to the void, utterly obliterated.  You would do well to remember their fate, Tung.  It is one I could visit upon you with but a thought."

Nobody could be angry like Gruumsh.  It was always dreadful when he shouted; bad enough to experience it as a voice confined to the inside of Tung's head but in person it was significantly worse.  He sprayed a thick, faintly smoking bile as he screamed and his painfully loud voice shook the very ground.  His tribe had been right.  Gruumsh WAS the rage, he was physical anger.

"You killed them?  All of them?!"

"That which is not living cannot die, fool.  They were... silenced.  I would describe the depths of the pain they felt but your primitive concepts of language cannot begin to encompass the sensation.  Just know that they are gone and you, for the time being, are not gone.  Simple enough for you to comprehend, yes?  I must try to remember your feeble mortal mind in future conversations..."

"They were your children!  You were supposed to protect them!"

"I am SUPPOSED to do what I please!  You have the AUDACITY to tell your GOD what he can and cannot do?  ENTITLED!  EGOTISTICAL!  WEAK, SNIVELLING EXCUSE FOR AN ORC!"

With every screamed word, Gruumsh took another step forward.  He could have crushed Tung beneath his bare feet now as burning bile and spittle rained upon the seated orc.  Up close, the rage within Gruumsh was literally visible.  Every vein popping, evaporating sweat forming a sickly sweet cloud of mist and that dreadful eye.  Where it wasn't green, it burned with a red inner light.

The wind grew stronger, a howling gale.  The sound resembled the screaming of dozens of voices, shrieking in pain and fear.  They were all too familiar.  These were the last utterances of his people.  His parents.  This was an attempt to intimidate.

Tung stood, slowly and carefully.  He looked directly into that eye.

The scene halts for a moment.  A voice expresses wordless confusion.  Something is wrong, this isn't how this moment is supposed to play out.  The scene resumes.

"KNEEL, DEFIANT ORC.  OBEY."

Tung recalled an old battle cry.

"No..."

HOW DARE YOU?  I AM YOUR GOD!

Tung's voice was completely level, almost calm, even as Gruumsh brandished his enormous spear and placed its point, crackling with green lightning, directly on Tung's chest.

"I am the last one, am I not?"

"ONLY BECAUSE OF FORTUNE.  YOU ARE THE WEAKEST.  YOU WERE ALWAYS THE WEAKEST AND WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED AS SUCH."

"I have studied your teachings, my lord.  I have studied your way.  I have learned that none outside of the Serrated Fang tribe even acknowledge you as a deity.  At best, theologians consider you the lead figure of an orc cult."

"ENOUGH.  PREPARE YOUR SOUL FOR THE BLACK WINDS OF ETERNAL OBLIVION, ONE-TON."

"You won't do it.  You can't.  You need me.  Now that you have killed them, forced them to sacrifice themselves, wasted them, you actually need me.  What is a god without worshipers, my Lord Gruumsh?  And you have said so yourself, I am the only one left.  Is that why you will not allow me to die?  Is that why you have stolen me?  What happens when a god is no longer loved or feared?  When all worship ceases?  Do they fade quietly into obscurity, Gruumsh, or do they starve and die?"

Something struggles to halt the vision.  It grows indistinct, soft around the edges.  Tung concentrates, a lucid dreamer forcefully taking control of a rampaging nightmare.

"ONE-TON-BLASPHEMER.  ONE-TON-INGRATE.  ONE-TON-DEAD!"

"You are beyond reason.  After all these years of abuse, even now all you do is threaten and scream.  I am tired of you and I will tolerate no more.  I cannot fight you, I cannot provide the 'honorable' end you probably feel you deserve but perhaps I can defend myself yet.  I reject you, Gruumsh.  I reject you as my god and as the leader of my race.  I hereby declare my soul to be the property of any more worthy god who should see fit to claim it."

The unseen interference ends.  The vision plays out uninterrupted.

There it ended.  One moment Tung stood in the presence of his lifelong tormentor, on the verge of complete annihilation.  The next... nothing.  Gruumsh was gone.  No protest, no pain, no retaliation.  He'd truly believed himself invincible.  What a pitiful creature.

That was it, then.  Tung sat for a while in case any roaming gods did claim him.  None did.  He scratched a dirt-encrusted claw thoughtfully at a still-vacant eye socket.  Gruumsh hadn't restored that along with his youth and judging by a familiar itch at his back, nor had his slave brand been healed.  Hardly a surprise.

He'd read there was a special place for souls without faith and that it wasn't a nice place.  This clearly wasn't that place.  Perhaps if you lost your faith in a place like this, the rules were different.

The storm overhead was clearing.  It was no doubt caused by Gruumsh for dramatic effect.  It wasn't really that dark here, not when you properly looked at it.  It was dry and warm, the wind was refreshing in a way and the metallic smell...  well, there were worse fates.  Some plants would have been nice.  Maybe there would be plants later, now that Gruumsh wasn't here.  There certainly didn't seem to be any way to leave without One Eye to deliver him.  Tung stood, reflexively reaching for an old axe that was no longer at his side.  Maybe for the best that it was gone.  All considered, abandoning the path of violence and slaughter was probably a good idea now.  He didn't need to impress any more.  A pacifist barbarian, now wouldn't that be something?  A fine story to tell if he ever met another intelligent being.  He made his way to the distant mountains in the hopes of finding a better vantage point.


The vision fades.  Tung was never supposed to witness this, never supposed to be in this place.  It was time to go home.  Time to make a better future.

Tung woke up.  His eye socket no longer hurt.  He didn't really feel much.  The familiar voice in the back of his head had stopped.  He tentatively offered a few provocative statements but there was no response.  This would be an adjustment.  But for now, best to live in the moment.  He slumped off out of the room in search of something to eat.

---

In another time and another place, Gruumsh has been dragged against his will to somewhere else.  He feels the last connection to his former worshipper, his last connection to Golarion being severed.  Insolent, miserable ingrate.  He sought a new messiah?  The wretched little gob of phlegm deserved everything he got.  You give yourself entirely and what thanks in return?  What reward?  A rage began to brew within his mighty chest fueled by entitlement and bitter frustration.  That felt more familiar.  As did the place he found himself in.  Ah, of course, his old domain!  To be home again was wonderful.  To be reunited with his legions of frenzied worshipers and the sustaining might of their faith.  To...

That smell... that malodorous ELF still lived.

Larethian.

Gruumsh howled impotently into the sky.  His followers had failed him again!  On the material plane of Greyhawk one million faithful orcs, one million hearts united in newly rekindled anger, each one howled in unknowing unison.  Their god had returned.


The eyes of Gruumsh were open again.

14
Rise of the Runelords / The eye of Gruumsh closes
« on: March 25, 2019, 08:53:44 PM »
Evening falls on a band of travellers.  Men, women and children, some elderly, some sick.  The strongest among them do what they can to assist those who are beginning to falter but while it is never spoken aloud, the group know that given their current situation they will not all survive the journey.  Several have fallen already and they are not certain of where they are even traveling to.  They are refugees driven from their home by bold warriors; warriors now celebrating the kind of fame and success reserved for the greatest of heroes.

The refugees are orcs.  The heroes are of various races, finally compelled to violent action following one raid too many.  The orcs have no remorse for their crimes.  After all, they are strong.  Humans, elves and their kin are weak.  Why shouldn't orcs take what they need?  That has been a proud tradition of most races throughout history.  Numbers now dwindling, it is time to find a new way.  Hiding does not come easily to them, proud fighters all, but in the face of extinction...

It has been 3 months since their search for a new place to call their own began.  Supplies are running low and a cold smell in the air suggests snow.  Without shelter, this will be a bad night.  In the near distance, scarcely two hours' walk from where they stand is a mountain range.  In the light of a nearly set sun, it looks terrible.  Peaks jab at the sky with craggy, snowcapped lances.  Less a mountain range, more an arrangement of sheer rock walls.  No creature quite in their right minds would consider an ascent, not even if fully prepared, able bodied and with the benefit of warm weather and daylight.  There appears to be no better alternative.  Their leader, the largest and therefore ruler by default, makes a difficult decision.  Perhaps there will be a cave.  She hopes.  She prays.


Somewhere outside of the perception of mortal minds is an orc.  Well, mostly an orc.  Biologically.  On a plane blighted by endless war, a place of violence, scorched earth, the smell of blood and the crowing of carrion feeders, this orc is throwing a tantrum of unfathomable proportions under a cloudy, blood red sky.  Mortal orcs are so worthless.  Utterly incompetent, weak, lazy scavengers.  Those are just the orcs he actually approves of.  CIVILISED orcs, now they REALLY make his blood boil.  Orcs who dared to defy him, dared to find other deities, who live among humans.  Orcs who trade.  Orcs who contribute.  Orcs who defy their very nature, growing soft and fat in their pursuit of an easy life.

This is the domain of Gruumsh.  An ancient god of orcs and part of an extensive pantheon, worshiped by thousands (if not millions) of orcs and even the occasional member of other races.  Whilst certainly not the most powerful god in existence, his strength is enough to give even the likes of mighty Khord pause for thought.  He is anger incarnate.  Not an avatar of war, that is far too ordered and civilised, but a representation of slaughter.  In the dark domains he represents, he has few equals.  Unfortunately, self control is not one of his most celebrated virtues.

As he screams bloody murder to his followers, inspiring them to bouts of uncontrollable rage, he lashes out with his chosen weapon, a tremendous spear.  Not at anything in particular but anger and violence are the only ways in which he has to express himself.  No poet, he.  With one almighty thrust, he feels something he's never felt before.  Something gives way.  He pauses, he looks at the spear.  Something.  A different... texture to the air.  A slight trick of the light, a different tone to this empty space.  He must have rampaged through it one million times or more but today, it's different.  He examines it, gains no further understanding and decides to continue to probe this oddity in the only way he knows how.  He strikes repeatedly at the air with spear, tooth and claw.  The anomaly is larger, now.  He can feel something almost ripping.  It's almost as large as he is, insofar as he can tell, and from it comes a new sensation.  He can taste the presence of others.  Divine beings.  A new plane of existence, perhaps?  Gruumsh lacks the intelligence to be truly curious about much but this is strange.  He pushes against the space, forces an arm into it.  The arm is no longer visible.  His legs follow, his body, another arm, finally his head.  What he finds is a new place.  Bland would be his first word to describe it.  Here is a plane of barren earth, devoid of life and without any influence.  Obviously a divine place undiscovered by any god.  He will begin to claim it for his own immediately but... something is missing.  He feels weak here, almost threatened.  Something more is needed.  He cannot sense the souls of his faithful worshipers.  Perhaps this place is so far from what he knows as home that in this strange realm, he has no worshipers.  He closes his enormous eye and concentrates, seeking out compatible souls.  Yes.


In the sky above the Devil's Teeth mountain range, a star shines brightly.  The orc tribe have been navigating by its light these past weeks but now there is a change; it is extinguished; an ill omen indeed.  Their wise man, an ancient druid, looks to the sky with his leader.  This is no magic that he recognises.  Discussions begin, fears and concerns about the meaning of this occurrence.  The leader falls silent mid-sentence.  Her eyes shine as she looks to the heavens.  The star is back, now burning a brilliant, sickly green.  She hears a voice call to her.  It doesn't speak in Orc, nor in Common but instead in a far older language than that.  She hears the ringing of steel in chorus with the screams of the fallen, the meaty sound of blade striking flesh with deadly intent, the gentle drumming of sprayed arterial blood on dusty earth.  This voice doesn't speak in Orc, it simply is Orc and resonates with the pride and glory that being an orc entails.  The leader drops to her knees and begins praying and sobbing frantically.  Her companions follow her lead.  Soon they stand, brimming with purpose and determination.  There are no words, they simply stride confidently toward that star, directly to the mountains.  They do provide a cave which houses a large family of wolves.  No match for an orc tribe.  Their guiding star has provided both food and shelter.

Years pass.  The tribe colonises the mountain range, moving to its frozen heart.  Times are hard, the first winter in particular claiming many lives, but they eventually learn the skills they need.  They take up farming, learn to build shelters rather than taking them from weaker creatures.  They discover art (in their own primitive way) and learn to work with tools requiring more finesse than an axe.  The Serrated Fang tribe is born, named after their prominent lower canine teeth.  Gruumsh fosters his new flock providing care and guidance.  He is not a particularly nurturing soul but in these difficult starting decades he is willing to put his anger aside.  The Serrated Fangs do fear him and his demands but overall are grateful to him for his efforts.  Once certain that they would survive and that they were completely, hopelessly devoted, Gruumsh brought in some less... savoury traditions.  Ritualistic mutilation and sacrifice became a part of day to day life.

As Gruumsh's power grew, so did his ego.  Finally, a land to call his own, free from the constant oppression of that pompous fool, Larethian.  All he desired now was a larger flock.  To his dismay (and increasing fury), his little tribe never left the mountains except in times of dire need.  They feared other races now and preferred to keep to themselves.  They never spread his word, they never expanded.  They bred, though.  Near constantly, he thought.  After several generations in which Gruumsh permitted only those seen to be the strongest and bravest to couple, their offspring were now strong beyond his wildest and most fevered dreams but stupid.  So very, very stupid.  Certainly a beneficial trait in a devotee, not one of them thought to question him, but this new tribe could barely walk without forgetting to step using alternating legs.  Even if they had encountered other races, their ability to communicate was severely hampered by their tremendous lower jaws and (in extreme cases) 6-inch canine teeth.  They reluctantly returned to the raiding ways of their forefathers but only out of necessity.  They never killed, never took too much, never took what they could make or find for themselves, always made sure their victims had enough to survive and recover.  It was almost like another form of farming in a barbaric way.


Rumours spread, sparse rumours, about a one-eyed orc tribe in the mountains.  Few sightings were confirmed but it became common knowledge that a race of hulking brutes were certain to descend upon the nearby settlements any day now to finish the grim work they'd started.  Everybody claimed to know somebody affected by a raid though not one could provide a first-hand account.  And so, this tiny corner of the world came to know the many Eyes of Gruumsh and through them, they saw a fledgling god.  A new, tiny but apoplectic fish in a very large pond.  In Golarion, that was the the true birth of Gruumsh.

The villagers are getting restless now.  They gather pitchforks and torches.  Enough is enough, it is time for action.  Gruumsh watches with an unblinking eye.  Violence, delicious and senseless.  This will be the making of his little tribe.

There was only one survivor.

15
Rise of the Runelords / Re: A tense exchange
« on: March 25, 2019, 07:48:56 PM »
Tung meditates in his room.  This is normally a peaceful time but not now.  He is on the verge of something terrible and he doesn't know what.

"Imbecile."

Tung's eye socket begins to burn.  He drifts quickly to sleep.

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