War of Fire and Ice

The Eye of Hunger

In the Lands of the Orcs

They were a ragged group of wayward souls who had traveled for two weeks through high plateau of eastern Ragesia, seeking a an even more wayward character, a monk named Dorik, who had made pilgrimage to this desolate corner of the world, a place called Blackroot. They had gathered in Free City of Gate Pass, given diplomatic “Letters of Marque” and sent forth by one Sir Eadan of House Minoki, a merchant of that city who promised each the substantial sum of 50 gold coins for what was described as a simple escort service. The travelers had gotten to know each other somewhat well during their uneventful travel, but the logic of Sir Eadan’s selection remained inscrutable, for they were quite an eclectic group. Who can know the minds of merchants? But perhaps these talents would prove complimentary…. The party consisted of the warrior Geth Corvine, the mysterious archer Hours Len Braidpath, Igby the Bard, Ares the Cleric, and a sorcerer called Driemz Darkblade.
Their journey through the windswept steppe of central Ragesia had left their faces wind burned and their cloaks whipped ragged. Clouds scudded across the sky, forecasting winter, and the air was thin and cold. Blackroot was a village administered by the orc clans that swept out of the glacial north under the direction of the Emperor Coaltongue many decades ago. The travelers were glad they were carrying diplomatic traveling papers, but they remained nervous as to their efficacy. Orcs may indeed be the most slow witted of Moradin’s creations, but they are vicious when they think they’ve been fooled.

The sun was beginning to set when the settlement finally came into view. Like most villages in the high plateau, this small community would have few amenities. The steppe was vast, and far from authority. In these places the village reeve was responsible for administering justice in the local region, which made him a king in all but name.

Blackroot drew its name from the darkwood trees that thrived in the region, their gnarled limbs bent in fealty to the all powerful wind. The village sat in the windward shadow of a rocky outcrop. Orcs, humans, and half-orcs worked together in the fields, eking what they can out of the ground, and ranging far and wide with their flocks of goats. The villagers seemed like the Blackroot trees, permanently bent by an omnipresent force. None of them seem particularly pleased to see strangers. It seemed that many of the huts were unoccupied, judging by which chimneys were spitting pale smoke into the biting wind.

As they neared the main drag, a looming, muscular orc wearing a fur trimmed hat walked out to me the weary travelers. His skin was weathered, and streaks of gray could be seen in his stringy black hair. He bore no weapons and wore loose peasant clothing, but he carried himself with confidence and quiet strength. “Greetings,” said the tusked savage. “I am Toraash’Dorrm, Reeve of Blackroot. I don’t know what brings you here, but we’ve no inn, no tavern, and no time for strangers. I suggest you move on.”
Then the travelers spoke to the orc, showing him the rights of passage bestow by the papers they carried, and asking after their charge, Dorik the Monk. The Reeve of Blackroot inspected the papers, reading them carefully, then grunted something derogatory but vaguely respectful about Gate Pass and said, “Your time will come again, southerners, when Coaltongue finishes his business at Castle Korstull.” Then the savage official told them the visitors that Dorik had left town recently, but that they were welcome to visit his hut, and even sleep there, as long as they left by morninglight.”

Geth Corvine did not believe the orc’s words, and nodded to his friends.

At the hut, the party quickly took to investigating, for it was obvious that this was a household left in haste and perhaps under duress. Driemz found a pendant like a glass eye-ball and a fragment of verse.

When madness and night align
And innocent blood waters the dark tree
The noble soul must claim the Coat of Eyes
And bear this burden for the good of all.

“The Eye of Hunger!” said Ares. “I have read of this in book of Mithras and Danzig.
Hours Len Braidpath felt the vague vibrations of a disturbance in the natural world surge as the sun dropped below the horizon. He looked out the window and saw the gibbous moon arising behind the black upthrust of rock the shielded the town from the wind. “There!” said the fey creature.

Making their way up to this sinister rock, the party found a well worn but hidden pathway amongst the scree fields, coming finally to a cave flanked by Blackroot trees and guarded by two orcish farmers and two cowled miscreants hidden in the trees. Diplomacy quickly turned to war, and the visitors proved themselves a force to be reckoned with.

The cultists who had fallen were cultists indeed for their cowls hid strange disfigurations: boils on their faces and hands that looked like eyes. They wore Eyeball Pendants under their cloaks, and they bore strange daggers of black obsidian.

The cave yawned more darkly in the waning light of dusk. Enter, if you dare. A deep throbbing chant could hardly be heard, drifting on the air…

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