The Forty Four Nights of Amn
The Month of Eleint
Week One – Temples, Temples
The summer of 1371 was unbearably hot in Amn. Only the poor, the mad and the hopeless braved the afternoon sun. In the capital, Athkatla, priests hid in their shaded cloisters, soldiers sulked in their barracks or under trees, merchants lay under their stalls or sat listlessly in the bars and all waited for the wind to change direction and bring cooler air off the ocean and into the city terraces.
East of the city, a lone rider raced through the lush grass and farmland that lay between Athkatla and his destination of Purskul. He had been raised in the summer heat of Amn, had harvested the crops beneath it, learned to ride and fight under it. After the snow and cold of the mountains the dry air of the plains reminded him of home. He was nearly there.
Another traveller was also nearing his destination that day. The man walked with a powerful measured gait. He wore the bound leggings of a northerner, the baggy blouse of a desert nomad and around all of it the battered cloak of a soldier. He paused as he arrived, taking in the angular beauty of the temple. Like most of the buildings in Athkatla the Moonhall of Selûne was an expensive thing of beauty. Its seven sloping sides rose to form a pyramid, the apex of which was the Moon platform where the most holy ceremonies were performed. The traveller ascended the steps to the entrance…
The temple of Lathander, the Morning Lord, was also beautiful, high-domed and with elaborate marble mosaic floors brought from a hundred different quarries all over the Realms. Solomon, an infamous mercenary captain, scratched his chest.
“Feel better?” asked Blackurn, his loyal adjunct. The rumour mills of Athkatla had churned endlessly on why a talented sergeant like Blackurn stuck with Solomon. None of the answers were complimentary. On their recent return to the city he bore new scars caused, he and Solomon said, by the icy breath of a white dragon they had killed in the mountains. Few had believed them, until Solomon had shown them the icy sheen of the claws he had taken from the corpse.
Solomon stopped scratching and started rubbing his jaw, he needed a trip to barber. He had just come out of a major ritual held by the priest of Lathander, he didn’t remember much of it. The back of his head hurt and it was reasonable to assume that Blackurn had knocked him out prior to it commencing. When he’d come round Blackurn and several priests had been fighting with him, trying to hold him down on an altar. He had been doing alright until an over-enthusiastic chorister had hit him on the side of the head with the holy sceptre of the Morning Lord. As he had lost consciousness he had noticed that the woman had been attractive in a pious sort of way. He should try and get her name.
Blackurn had told him that he had put on a suit of cursed armour that had possessed him all the way back up the mountains. Solomon wasn’t convinced by that, he was a pretty careful kind of guy. He wouldn’t have just thrown on the armour without checking twice. Blackurn had replied that checking twice got you into these kind of situations. They were waiting for the priest to return from his chambers. Apparently Solomon had caught him on the nose and the Exalted Temple Priest of the Dawn had blood on his robes as a result. Purity was big with Lathander it seemed.
Eventually the heavy set priest with the golden hair returned. His robes were immaculate, his nose – puffy.
“Feeling better Solomon? The armour you put on was the sacred armour of the Dust Warriors - an ancient tribe of undead that dwell in the Calimsham Desert. The Dust Warriors fight all over the desert and follow some unfathomable agenda that seems to be centred on their long dead religion. It is rare to see them so far north.
“Their armour stores their soul after their physical form is destroyed. The ancient spirit slowly possesses the next person who wears the armour until the soul is consumed and the Dust Warrior is reborn. I would have thought that the mummified corpse inside it might have warned you of the dangers, still you’re perfectly well now the Morning Lord has seen fit to liberate you from it.
“A service for which it is my secular duty to present you with a bill. 15 gold for the identification of the charms, they are goblin in nature by the way and worthless. 100 gold for the exorcism of the armour but we include its safe disposal…”
Before the priest could say any more Solomon dropped the purse of platinum that he had obtained for the trade goods his group had found in the goblin lair.
“Why don’t you take it out of that, along with the 1000 gold the temple lent us for costs on the trip.”
The priest cast a hungry gaze over the purse.
“Ah yes, the mission. Menon is safe and well in our cloisters, the land deeds have been signed over to the church by the Appleblanes and you seem to have put our mysterious elf to flight. All in all the elders are very happy. Very happy Solomon and I am very relieved - I could have lost a great deal of face backing you.
“The temple elders are eager to see what you make of your next mission. Have you ever heard of a town called Riatavin? It lies far to the south-east of Amn, near the Snowflake Mountains.
“The city is powerful and reach but lacks the edification that only Lathander can bring. We tried to construct a temple there but the fellow in charge of the project was a fool and died in a duel. He did manage to purchase a plot of land there though and it is that that we wish you to develop.
“Naturally we will pay the costs of construction and so on but the design and execution of that design are what we will judge you on. Oh and we think that all the work should be done within a year. Any longer and you obviously have no idea of deadlines.
“We will extend you a line of credit worth 5000 gold in the first instance. You should find everything you need in Athkatla but should there be something you need outside the city then you may have 2000 in trading bars.
“Of course if you would prefer a smaller job there is something of an embarrassing incident the temple could do with clearing up. There was a theft recently, two magical swords were stolen. We offering a reward of 1000 gold for their return, more depending on whom they were recovered from. Come and see me when you have made your mind up.”
Oriva had been one of the mercenaries on Solomon’s trip to the mountains. Like Solomon he was a half-elf, Oriva liked to think that the similarities ended there. He had come to the slummier side of Athkatla looking for a madman.
He had met the fellow many moons earlier while trying to identify some mysterious potions he had found in a mountain grotto. The man had been a wizard cursed by his fellows never to use the art again. As a result he spent most of his time trying to drink himself to death in the cellar bar of the Port Barrel inn. A ramshackle construction in the south-east of the city.
Aubrey, the cursed wizard, recognised Oriva at once.
“Well if it isn’t the young hero back again. You ignored my advice didn’t you? You had to go out and slay dragons, make a name for yourself, you’re doomed now! I know how this ends! You’ll be fighting the forces of the Seven Hells before long! But in the meantime do you want to join me in a brandy?”
Oriva nodded to the barmaid who handed him a dirty tumbler filled with dirtier fluid.
“I want to learn magic with you.” said Oriva coming to the point, he suspected that if he didn’t then they would be here all day. Brandy shot from Aubrey’s mouth.
“What! Are you trying to redeem me? Anyway I see that you have a Sea Wizard’s eyes why don’t you go to them for training?”
“Guess I’m not a clubbable kind of person” replied Oriva.
“No, no, no! If I take on the elderly mentor role to you, you know what’ll happen. Either I am restored to me original abilities and have to confront spectres from my past or I’ll be brutally murder by your enemies to give you an excuse to go on the rampage. I’ve read the book, I know how this ends! Give me one reason why I should help you make something of yourself?”
Oriva’s dagger leapt to his hand, almost unbidden, he pulled the older man round and pinned him on the bartop and brought the knife to his throat.
“Well now I compare my existential angst at the anguish of living to the sharp blade of your knife I’m starting to gain some perspective. I suppose it wouldn’t do that much harm to teach you a thing or two – given that the alternative is watching my lifeblood flow into the sawdust of this sleazy establishment.”
The barmaid tapped Aubrey’s head, “Less of that, some of us have to work here you know.”
Dak’kon crossed the last of the steps and strode through the entrance into the temple. The interior was dark and illuminated only by the light of the thousands of “stars” embedded into the walls. As he entered, to his surprise, a priestess called to him - the hulking presence of a Moonsword behind her.
The priestess introduced herself as Arriyna Lunaze and explained that Dak’kon was not the first of his order to come to the temple seeking guidance as to the meaning of the strange vision they had been granted. All the monks had said the same thing, a sight of their monastery torn down by an orc army lead by a massive demon breathing fire. The priestesses had prayed for guidance but Selûne would not answer the queries directly and instead one of the Seven Sisters had appeared and told the temple priestesses to assist the monks in any way they could.
No-one knew whether the vision was of the past, the future or a terrible present. All the other monks had resolved to hurry on their journey seeking to avert the attack if the vision was a warning of the future.
“We can assist you in your journey if you wish.” said the priestess. “One of the Friends of the temple is a merchant called Nash bini Almen. He is leading a caravan of precious goods to Berdusk next month. If you wish to travel with him then meet him at the Silverale Inn on the first week of the new month.
“There is another alternative but it is very much more dangerous. I almost hesitate to mention it. It possible for us to open a path through the Planes using the Ways of the Moon. This should take you directly to Berdusk temple in a matter of days. The Moon Way walker though faces many challenges and hazards. Should you wish to use the Ways then we will need to open the gate here, at the time of the full moon during the middle of the next second week.”
The horse rider spurred on his steed, fields of corn, maize, squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes and olives sped past. Horse and rider vaulted low walls separating grape vines from lime trees as they drew ever closer to the squat flattened buildings of the clan farmstead. With a final leap Gorflem cleared the farm gate and entered the farm’s large courtyard. There he pulled heavily on his reins and pulled his horse up in a dead stop, kicking its forelegs into the sky.
Around the courtyard excited yells and cheers rose “Gorflem’s returned! He’s back!”. The half-orcs swarmed from the shade of the promenades and rushed to greet the returning hero, amongst them was Gorflem’s favourite uncle Plenty who had trained him in the ways of the barbarian and had been a replacement for his lost father. Gorflem jumped from the saddle and staggered slightly as his weight fell on the leg that had been ruined by a javelin last season. His admirers steadied him and drew him up to the clan house, noisily demanding the latest stories from him and declaring to all and sundry: “Gorflem the Lame has returned!”
Karok moved through the market trying to find merchants trading armour. Or anyone who might know the location of the nearest shrine dedicated to the god he followed, Marthammor Duin, god of dwarven wanderers. Even in the morning cool he was sweating heavily within his armour, he had earned 12 gold on his last trip and he hoped that he could trade up his current suit for something more suited to the Amnian heat. To his surprise he found it easier to find the shrine than the merchant, almost everyone he asked told him the same thing: “Look for the legless dwarf on Walled Way!”. He eventually found a small shop that seemed to be set into someone’s house. The merchant was a slender, bug-eyed man who seemed to enthusiastically agree with everything Karok said. His merchandise lay scattered around the shop floor.
“Ooo, lovely armour, nice, dwarf made? Mmm, yes, I like dwarf made. Take your pick, make you a deal. Leather, thirty gold. Hide, very good, hide, hot weather, I charge just 45 gold. For metal, I have splint mail, worn by a real hero, he a dead hero now. Armour, bad luck, so just 300 gold, in many ways, bargain.”
Week Two – Training and Conversations
The two half-orcs squared off in a square room, dust rose from the floor as they manoeuvred around one another. The only light came through the gaps and rips in the canvas sheet that had been thrown over the tall walls of the ruined building.
They were fighting with halberds, not a weapon that Gorflem had used a lot recently. His uncle thrust at him and he caught the blow with his blade and used the momentum to swing the locked blades around before breaking contact and taking a swipe at Plenty’s face. His uncle stepped back, dodging the blade by pure instinct.
Gorflem feinted high, swung the butt of his weapon low. The older half-orc ducked under his blow but seemed to slip and roll forward. Eager to finish Gorflem tried to reverse his blow and catch his uncle’s head with the base of the halberd. Too late he realised that his uncle was moving from a fall to diving roll that took him near Gorflem’s crippled leg. He tried to jump out of the attack but instead hopped and the shaft of Plenty’s halberd caught him behind the leg sending him crashing to the ground with a howl of pain.
“That leg’s a weakness.” quipped Plenty. “You’re telling me! Did you have to hit it so hard?!” yelled Gorflem as his uncle pulled him up. Plenty was breathing hard, his nephew was pressing him hard in the duel these days. The young always bury the dead he thought, it was one of those uncomforting Purskul peasant mottoes.
“I was thinking of visiting the temple of Lathander and seeing if they could heal it for me.” said Gorflem.
Plenty erupted with anger: “You fool! Never trust the gods! Particularly the human ones and especially not the Orcish ones, do you know how the orcs arrived at Purskul? They arrived in slavery because their gods had abandoned them in battle and allowed their people to be captured by the Amnians. After the Arrival our people vowed never to rely upon any god again, any success, any failure would be ours alone. We worshipped the great elders and heroes of our past so that their spirits would come and aid us. Thus even in death we all aid our folk!
“Talk no more foolishness Gorflem, but instead heed my advice. Soreknuckle Alabaster was a wise trader as well as a strong fighter. He traded two of his finest stallions to a wizard in return for a pair of magical boots that allowed him to run from one end of Purskul to the other in the same time it might take a lad to run the length of a cornfield.
“He died fighting giants in the Snowflake Mountains and his companions were forced to abandon his body. You should quest for Soreknuckle’s Boots, they will allow you to overcome your lameness without having to rely on gods! If Soreknuckle thinks you are worthy he will lead you to his treasure.”
Dust blew up the length of Walled Way. Karok had found the shrine to Marthammor Duin easily. It was a tiny niche in the walls that gave the street its name. At first Karok had thought it was nothing more than a dwarven beggar bereft of his legs hiding from the sun. Then he saw next to the dwarf an exquisite iron statuette of Marthammor Duin in the pose of the Opening of the Ways. He had inquired after the dwarf and it turned out that this legless old man, Tarnbuckle One-Ring, was indeed the shrine priest of Marthammor Duin in Athkatla. The old dwarf was cheery and bluff, Karok had to supress the disrespectful thought that perhaps he was some kind of anti-dwarf so unusual was he.
The priest had lost his legs to an Umber Hulk while exploring the Underdark. He had retired to Athkatla determined to open a shrine to the great dwarven god. Due to his limited mobility, this was as far as he had reached though and he had decided that this street was clearly where Marthammor Duin had wanted his shrine.
When Karok had explained his desire to learn more of the ways of Marthammor Duin the old dwarf had been delighted and had immediately started telling Karok stories of the gold and indeed his own adventures. Every morning Karok would arrive at the shrine (he was not certain as to whether One-Ring ever left) armed with a jar of hot coffee and a few of the local pastries and One-Ring would start talking and talking and talking…
“So the mighty Marthammor Duin raised his hand and said…”
“If I might guess at this point. Did he say: ‘None of evil heart may cross this Holy circle’?”
Karok blew some of the froth from the surface of his coffee. The old priest paused; “Well, yes he did.”
“Did the dark orcs quail in fear before his revealed godhood and run from the mountain away to the lake where in their panic they were drowned?” he asked. “Well, yes, say have I told you this one before?” Karrock nodded: “Twice”. “Really?” asked the priest “Well in that case how about How Marthammor Duin First Met the Elves?”
“No. I don’t suppose you know what happened when Marthammor Duin met the elves for the second or third time?”
“No” replied the priest definitively.
On the other side of the city Solomon, Oriva, Blackurn and Dak’kon were sharing a bottle of white and exchanging their news. Solomon had been looking for someone to buy the white dragon teeth and claws, all he had to show for it was the name of a shadowy figure called “Master Salicus”. He was a purchaser of exotica, rich but secretive. Rumour had it he was based in the Gem quarter of town. That was about it. Oriva had heard about an elf who had recently travelled to Athkatla from the North and was rumoured to be a wizard. He hadn’t heard where the elf was staying though. Dak’kon shared his news about what he had discovered at the temple. Solomon had also been looking for an armour, he had had a meeting already with the fellow who had seemed impressed with the swatches of dragon skin Solomon had produced. The trouble was the armourer wanted a thousand gold up front and could not make any guarantees that the price would be fixed there.
Week Three – Friends and Acquaintances
Towards the end of the week Oriva made his way from his latest bout of studying in Aubrey’s loft apartment and left the city, heading east parallel to the trade route to the north. His destination was the Hanged Man inn, his purpose a long overdue meeting.
A sad looking dog-faced creature with long floppy ears greeted him at the inn. Oriva was unsurprised, despite the delay he thought the druid would be expecting him. The dog-faced creature led him to a small copse of trees behind the inn. Where the druid from the vision in the mountains waited. In the flesh he seemed a middle-aged man with a powerful physique, his simple clothes blended in the undergrowth around him. The druid introduced himself as Sylvanus. He greeted Oriva and Oriva produced from his backpack a small cloth bag. The druid took it and opening it removed a gold sickle, the symbol of a high druid, from within.
“He was a good man before he started to experiment with the Pine Zombies.” said Sylvanus “I wanted you to know that. My thanks for returning the sickle.”
He handed Oriva a thin leather belt from which hung several thin tubes. He asked to see the potions that Oriva had taken from the ruins of the high druid’s former quarters, identifying them in turn he confirmed that they were still active. Then he handed Oriva a small silver sickle on a leather thong - a symbol of friendship between the druids and the wearer. With a final sad look he called the dog creature to him and the pair seemed to disappear deeper into the forest and within minutes were lost from view. Oriva turned and headed back to the city.
The elders of the Reeks clan gathered together in the clan house. The shaman Shul-lestra addressed them:
“Soon it will be time for you to go on your way again. Gorflem, the ancestors see this and approve. You stand at a moment in your fate when paths stand open to you, some lead to failure – perhaps even death. Others will take to the head of our clan.”
At this Plenty and Gorflem’s other relatives nodded their heads in approval. Frowns cut the faces of the Yoslem Reeks. They favoured their own champion Ribcrusher Reeks.
“No man may know his own Fate until Destiny has brought it about. Perhaps you will make your name outside of Purskul. However to help you we have summoned our ancestor, Bullpuncher Reeks and he has agreed to aid you. His spirit is bound into the tooth of the dragon you slew. Call on him and he will answer. Call on him too often and he will know you for a coward, as will we. Bring honour to the Reeks!”
The elders repeated the ritual last sentence and with that the Reeks bore Gorflem on their shoulders and mounted him on his horse ready to face his new adventures.
Spirit Charm of Bullpuncher Reeks. When invoked increases Strength by one. Training with Plenty has given you 125 XP that may only be spent on a Barbarian level.
You realised 1600 GP on the recovered trade goods, Blackurn is convinced that the buyer was not a real merchant. After deductions this is a profit of 560 GP.
You have four Healing Potions, one Giant Growth potion, two Fire Resistance potions and a talisman of friendship with the Druids. Aubrey has taught you the Identify spell.
Gain 12GP from Solomon, hired for one month. One-Ring has managed to teach you all the legends you need to gain Cleric second level.
The next month is Marpenoth, it is preceded by the High Harvest Festival which will see massive celebrations in Purskul and Athkatla.