Arza

The Age of Order

The Age of Order is nigh. With the benevolent Veldann Council holding the vast majority of Golarian territories under its control, the need for agents of war is quickly diminishing. Much of the world is at peace. Those seeking adventure and fortune are forced to seek out contracts from far beyond the Golarian realm, to outer reaches, across treacherous seas, and gaping wounds of treacherous earth.

It is the first Oathday of Pharast, 4903 AR. You have received a parchment, how, you are not sure. The parchment is scribed in runes you know you cannot read, but somehow just by holding it, its words and meaning enter your mind:

Our augury instructs us that you will do well to join us in Arzaeen. You must make haste and meet your escort at the edge of the Desert Arza, at the camp Osí. Should you accept our request, we will know, and within a fortnight of receipt of this message, you will receive instructions for your travel.

The Mihr of Arza

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Camp Osí
From beneath the sands

Several days after receiving their instructions, adventurers begin making their way to the vast desert known as the Arza Sea through the only open port, Camp Osí. This encampment lies on a small hard-packed sandbank between the shore’s edge and the Arza desert. There is one ocean-side dock for small boats, and one sand dock, a set of steps terminating at the edge of the desert. There are stones arranged for seating and some scattered palm trees for shade. In front of a small hut, an old man sits quiet, patiently awaiting travelers, in front of his wares, canteens, knives, wormsickness pills and a host of edibles.

The first boat of the day arrives just after dawn. Aboard are various crewmen, along with some travelers come to the land of Arza:

  • Siegfried Auslieger, an old man with big crazy blue hair, no eyebrows, babbling to himself;
  • Kothay Slint, a humanoid male with red hair and blue eyes, carrying a pair of beautiful swords;
  • Zhego, a leather armor-clad mongol with pointed ears, a large flagged spear, speaking abyssal to his pet, Ari, a tentacle-mouthed, unmaned lion with dark gray skin and large talons;
  • Korak, a medium-build female with tiny horns, appears at unease and keeps to herself; and
  • Padöka, a half-orc wizard coming from outer Osiria.

The ship’s dingy barely arrives at the pier, before another albeit much smaller boat sails ashore. This boat holds only two non-crew members who have come to Arza for adventure:

  • Caraway Brandyrain, a young, halfling woman with pixie cut hair and green eyes, who comes from the Savannah region with her cheetah kitten, Bryzina; and
  • Anethir Guirlande, a fairly handsome man, hooded and cloaked with disheveled hair, scraggly and outdoorsy looking, spends most of his time watching others.

Siegfried makes quick friends with the old man of Camp Osí, Jeyva, who is obviously a bit crazed, likely from the lack of social interaction he sees. Or rather, never sees, as he is self-made blind, with eyes sockets scarred shut with x-shaped wounds. When asked why he blinded himself he responds, “That’s how they get ya!” “Who?” “You’ll see” (His hysterical laughter ensues). Jeyva offers them all fried scarabs with fig & pistachio paste, along with his “famous” Desert Ale. All the dishes are made of what looks to be hardened guano or dung.

The final group of adventurers arrives, this time via airship, from which a rope ladder is dropped. Descending comes:

  • Hesper Dipali, a tall female humanoid with bluish skin, dark hair and white eyes, accompanied by an unnatural collection of unintelligible whispering sounds;
  • Turk and Lurga, twin brother and sister, respectively, dark-skinned, jungle barbarian dwarves wielding a crude thorny club and bone sword; and
  • Salikka, a elderly Tengu monk from the mountains near Osiria, who skips the ladder and flits down to the earth with ease.

Jeyva welcomes everyone and when asked where they should go next, he says that he hears people come and people go, but he has nothing to do with that, but he expects for the sighted it will be obvious. Turk and Lurga immediately set to work downing as much Jeyva’s desert ale as time will allow. While waiting, Korak sneaks around to investigate the camp, finding little, but some tattered sleeping blankets. Meanwhile, behind the rapidly drunkening Dwarves, Anethir notices strange deformations in the sand. From underneath the sandy cover jumps an ambush of goblins and bugbears, all clad in insectoid armor. Battle ensues for most; Jeyva blindly swings at a nearby goblin, Athenir darts arrows from a palm tree, the drunken Turk and Lurga stumble, Korak’s sword bursts into flame and strikes. Only Salikka and Padöka make effort not to involve themselves in the fray, quietly watching on from their stone bench seats.

Two larger goblins also appear from the edge of the sandbank and attack, one of whom has fierce glowing red eyes. As it becomes clear the adventurers are fairing well against the goblin cohort, Padöka rises in a fit of angered disappointment and begins shooting bolts of energy at Zhego and Kothay. As he is about to strike a deadly blast at Korak, a hooded man apparates behind him and sends a blade lit with electric energy clean through Padöka’s chest. The remaining goblin raider flees sandward. A loud rumbling is both heard and felt, as an enormous cavern opens beneath the goblin’s foot; a gigantic sandworm rises and devours the creature whole.

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The worm moves toward the sanddock at the direction of the mysterious hooded figure. He introduces himself as an emissary to the Mihr. He thanks them for coming all this way and apologizes for this apparent ambush by agents of the “Bahrood”.

Hesper spends the time healing. Out of the corner of her eye she sees something dart from the body of the red-eyed goblin, but it was too brief to tell what.

The group set to looting the bodies of the fallen. They find several rusted knives, an orcish sword, banded mail armor, a dire flail, an exotic carapace saddle, various gems and coins. They also find on Padöka’s corpse, a strange dull purple stone in the shape of a large egg.

The emissary claims he has been asked to escort them on the back of his worm, across the Arza Sea to Arzaeen. When asked, he states he has never met the Mihr, but is a member of a subservient Mihreen clan. He provides everyone with a golden amulet, each containing a small writhing worm in a translucent red gem. He explains this will let them pass freely through the “Veil”, “as only the wormkind may”. While mounting, Caraway cuts herself on the worm’s ragged hide and see briefly sees a flash of desert horizon. Siegfried says goodbye to Jeyva who along with Salikka, plan to stay behind. Jeyva gifts some worm-sickness pills to Siegfried, who swallows a few before climbing upon the worm’s back.

They ride due East for almost the whole day. Many, but assuredly not Siegfried encounter nausea while riding the worm, particularly the fierce-some Korak, who makes the ride with her head leaning over the edge of the saddle-basket, dispatching sick.

Along the way are scattered oases, a sandstorm in the distant North, but not much more than the unyielding desert sand. In the distant East, a large mountain looms onto the horizon and as they near, they move through a translucent wall, that the emissary points out is the “Veil”. After a little while longer, they can see the structures of a desert metropolis come into view.

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The Arrival in Arzaeen
Into town, into the pit

When they finally reach the city it is nearing nightfall. The main features of the cityscape are dimly lit by the waning sun: a large pyramidal temple, nested among an outcropping of strange domed buildings, a ramshackle necropolis and colosseum; lying carved into a mountainside overhang, tenements, bustling markets, a surprising amount of life for such an arid wasteland. The Mihreen worm-man, leaves the group at the edge of the hardpack, near the busy city sandport. All manner of folk are trafficking throughout, many on smaller worms, beetles and insectoid. Monitoring the influx and outflux is a small group of town guards, who are guided by a robed figure of apparent authority, who pays the adventurers no particular mind. The group make their way, at the Mihreen’s suggestion, to the inn of Ajior in the center of town.

As they move into town, the bazaar is still bustling, but some are beginning to close up shop for the evening; a variety of silks, foods, jars of knickknacks. Outside the bazaar are guilds of your typical craftsmen, apothecaries, metalworkers. There are many very young children, and mainly old or waifish folk, not unhealthy per se, but no one particularly post-adolescent and able outside of the guard, and many of the children are of a ragamuffin demeanor. The main part of town is cut through by a crystal clear, slow-flowing river, with all manner of fish seen swimming about. Scattered throughout are small temples to various deities, some recognizable, others not, some a kind of partially familiar hybrid.

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Smack in the heart of town is Ajior’s inn, which from the outside looks like a very modest inn. Ajior, they find, is a friendly tiger-striped elder male catfolk, who has been eagerly awaiting their arrival. He spends a few moments answering the gang’s inquiries about: past adventurers who he has hosted here, “Many have come through here. They end up either dead, exiled or coerced into the guard”; about the Mihreen, “he has a business relationship to host their invitees, doesn’t know much else”; about the guard, “Those are Chalaaq’s men. There was an invasion from the inside mountain about 20 years ago, at which time Chalaaq came to power and began commissioning youth into his guard”; and his feelings on the invasion, “it’s been peaceful since. They don’t bother me much and I have a good business to keep my fed.” He explains that his instructions are to arrange a meeting with a Mihreen, Pella, once they have had a chance to settle in. Meanwhile, Korak and Hesper each notice two small children picking their pockets; Hesper steps in before Korak can physically reprimand her catch, who is maybe only 8 years old. Ajior scolds the kids, apologizing for the behavior of Sooz (age 8), his catfolk son, and Megna (age 13) his adopted daughter. He explains they’ve been playing with several of the thieving children and have adopted some bad habits. He suggests they visit his wife’s tavern next door, and says “tonight’s drinks will be on me.” Siegfried asks where he can get some good worm-sickness pills; Ajior responds, “All around town. Oh, and don’t eat the blue ones… or the green ones.”

Ajior’s lobby boy takes the group to their rooms, and they make their way down a flight of stairs into a much grander hallway than is expected from the modest inn exterior. There are two rooms with enough individual beds so that only two of them have to share. The jungle dwarves, Korak & Zhego who suffered the most nausea from the worm travel drag themselves into the first room and arrange for cold cloths and buckets. The rest of the crew make their way toward the tavern next door, The Tangled Yarn.

The tavern owner and Ajior’s wife, Hatha, greets them warmly. They all partake in some of her delightful home-brew refreshments of agave-infused ale and various local delicacies, all she is happy to boast, is on Ajior’s tab. Hatha is a bit of a gossip, and is also quick to let Siegfried know where to get the best wormsickness pills; “the blue ones are best.” They take in music from the night’s entertainment, while Caraway tells fortunes. After the night grows thick, they trundle back to the inn for rest. A deeply inebriated Siegfried attempts to snuggle in with Anethir, who instead grumbles himself asleep in a nearby chair.

The next day, all those who are not still retching from wormsickness, venture into the town, but not before arranging a midday meeting with the Mihreen. Siegfried meets the nearby apothecary, Champior Electror, who almost like a Red-hair twin, shares a moment of amazement with Siegfried’s explosive talents and offers him use of his laboratory if he will help out a bit. He also seems to have a different take on which wormsickness pills are best. Caraway ventures to the stables to let Bryzina play among the strange livestock that are a mix of odd-looking mammals and insectoids. Hesper wanders the market looking for magic items, finding little of interest. Kothay and Anethir encounter a metalsmith, Brumbek Dorlan, who is quick to voice his distrust and distaste for the current regime; he brandishes several scars from run-ins with the town guard, and doesn’t hesitate to make increasing large offers for the worm amulets around the adventurer’s necks. (Anethir secretly slips Brumbeck a note to help acquaint him with the town’s more subversive elements).

At noon, back at Ajior’s they meet in the lobby and are escorted downstairs to a meeting room, wherein sits a young Mihreen who introduces himself as Pella. He first gives them each 100gp and thanks them for making the journey to Arza. He does not seem to personally know the Mihr, but has overheard stories from the adults of his clan and they claim to be the Mihr’s faithful servants. He instructs them that their most immediate mission is to obtain more of the small egg-shaped stones, the ovastones, in order to aid the Mihr who are somehow trapped by the Veil. He explains that they already have 4, including the one the adventurers captured at Camp Osí, and they are looking for 8 more. He presents Caraway with a stone ocarina that can be used to summon some smaller worms or call out to Mihreen, and that his elders are willing to teach them how to eventually use summoning stones to control the larger worms.

When asked why someone so young was sent, he replies that it is difficult for the dwindling Mihreen tribe to transit through the city without facing Chalaaq and his guard’s wrath. Pella is able to mix in with the children of the Thieves’ Guild and go unnoticed in town. He explains that the worm amulets are made of a mother worm’s afterbirth and only things with worm blood can pass through the Veil. He explains that Chalaaq is able to transfer goods, but not personnel through the Veil and he controls the only active trade port in the South; he would probably make great efforts to obtain the amulets if he knew their power. The group notices that the young Mihreen does not himself wear such an amulet, and he explains they don’t even let him ride a giant worm yet, much less leave the Veil. Finally, Pella warns the group about the Bahrood. He claims that they were behind the ambush at Camp Osí and have been using their powers to influence evil in the mountains to their cause. He wishes them well and adjourns, by moving toward the back of the meeting room, whispering a short incantation and walking through the smooth stone. Kothay notices the door to the room slip shut and he rushes to see Ajior’s boy, Sooz, running down the hall.

As they make their way back into town for the evening, they check in on their wormsick allies, who are still bedridden; the lobby boy looks a bit irritated at having to constantly exchange their buckets and has been providing them with stale bread to quell their stomaches. Just outside the inn, they encounter Megna and Sooz who whisper for them to join them in a nearby alley. They explain that they overheard them talking to the Mihreen boy and that for a small fee, they would take them to a shaman in the mirelands who they’ve seen playing with what they describe as a blue ovastone. After a bit of bartering it is arranged that they will meet and head out in the morning. All of them head to The Tangled Yarn to relax and arrange for tomorrow’s provisions, except Kothay who beforehand wanders among the Temples in the neighborhood, discouraged them all closed for the evening.

The next morning, the group meets up with Megna and Sooz who lead them across the river into the tenements and through a tangled of rooms until they enter a door to a cavernous hallway. Down that path, across a rope bridge over a deep chasm, and finally they emerge into an enormous mountain chamber, so tall the ceiling can barely be made out, the path changes to boardwalks as the ground inside is a swampy mire with a not quite oppressive humid warmth and sounds of cicadas and katydids chirping and echoing. They follow the two children on the boardwalk until they reach a modest sandbar, where the kids stop to wait for everyone to gather, at which point Megna reaches for a hidden lever and they all tumble into a 15 foot deep pit of dried bones. As they all clamber to their feet, Sooz suddenly screams and passes out, while a swarm of small scorpions emerge, only to be followed by a giant female scorpion, assumedly the swarm’s matriarch. From above the pit, some unseen children begin throwing rocks and shouting “INITIATION! INITIATION!”. Megna has the look of someone trying to be proud and brave, but when she sees that Sooz is unconscious she begins to erupt in tears. Luckily, these foolish children are accompanied by adventurers who are able to quickly smash the arachnid swarms and finish off the mother beast before anyone gets too badly hurt.

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