In the Cities of the Dead

A Stench of Orcs, cont. again

Being The Chronicle of Corwin of Westrun, Erathis' Lightbringer

Searching further into the Orcish stronghold, we discovered what could only have been a cesspit. Too lazy to relieve themselves outside, as even our domestic animals do, the Orcs had fouled their own shelter. Worse still, they had consigned one of their number to a slow and terrible drowning WITHIN the waste. This caged unfortunate called to us for help, and we—being not cruel, even to our enemies—bestirred ourselves to free him from his prison. (I must say, to be fair, that his offer of treasure gave his pleas some extra weight.) Smiting the cage lustily, we managed to free the Orc, but scarcely had we done so when a new mob of undead horrors appeared in our midst. They had clung, unseen, to the ceiling as we searched the chamber, and waited for the ideal time to strike. I thought I had seen the extremes of perversion in the rotting ghouls, but we now faced a greater abomination—an orcish skin, stripped of flesh and animated like a terrible cloak! Dox, sorely injured from our last engagement, was swiftly knocked senseless, and wisely chose to feign death to avoid further hurt. Our newest companion Nix did also fall, but by the grace of Erathis I was able to revive her to fight anew. Anakat showed her might as usual, employing her savage helmet to head-butt a ghoul some twenty feet into the cavern wall. Thus, with the help of the orcish prisoner, we were able to defeat our foes. After the battle, the orc—now as docile and cooperative as his kind ever get—told us of the history of this place.

His name was Krub, he said. Many years ago, he and another orc named Mord encountered some “pink-skins” (his name for humans) near the strange statue of eyes. Being orcs, they killed and ate the unfortunate souls. Unfortunately, it seems one of those humans was a powerful mage, and his power somehow lived on in the flesh of Mord. Mord began to gather wizard’s dust (called “residuum”), and made moves to take power over the Orcish tribe using his newfound magical abilities. In time, Mord did establish himself as leader, making Krub his lieutenant. Ordered by Mord, the Orcs began to raid human settlements seeking treasure and more residuum. A new legend sprang up: the statue of eyes was actually a living creature imprisoned in stone, and must be awakened. Mord began to meet with a hobgoblin named Ayak, who gave him the means to raise the dead and turn them into powerful warriors. Krub, fearing that Mord meant to destroy the tribe and raise them all as undead, attempted an assasination. He failed, and was thus imprisoned.

A remarkable story, to be sure. It seems the threads of this plot we have stumbled upon reach even to the ends of the earth. In any case, Krub bargained for his life. In return for letting him go into exile, far from humans, he showed us the location of two magical items captured by the orcs. Hidden in the wall of the fort were a Safewing Amulet and a Rod of Forceful Invocation. After Krub had gone, we journeyed back to the plain where we had arrived. All were injured or exhausted from the recent battles, so we decided to camp overnight before tackling the problem of destroying the foul statue of eyes.

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bhaines

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