Riven

Stranger in a Strange Land

Session 1

"Wake up, my friend. They are coming for you."

The words drifted through Jace's dreams and pulled him reluctantly from his slumber. He had been dreaming of his past—his father, a humble elf; his mother, a human who left her city life to be with the forest folk; his two younger sisters; the forest where he grew up; his home: Lanathyr, a small but beautiful elven town far from civilization. Memories so precious, so beloved.

And then the attacks. Orcs overran the village and enslaved the elves. Jace's family fled to the forest. Too young to really understand what was going on, Jace met a young orc boy named Vitgut in the woods. The became fast friends, oblivious of the nature of their racial differences.

Eventually, fate struck the two boys, and some of the adult orcs discovered Vitgut and Jace, and demanded the orc youth execute his friend. He refused and was beaten severely for his kindness. Having learned a few tricks from his agile orcish friend, Jace slipped his bonds and fled to the nearest "civilized" town of Kyrenai, leaving his family behind, but vowing to return to them in a few days.

As the words pulled him from his nostalgia-laced dreams, two large men grabbed Jace under the arms and dragged him through a dark passage. Doors burst open and Jace was thrown into the sunlight to a bout of applause.

Jace found himself in a fighting pit and as he struggled to make sense of his surroundings, and suddenly gates opened across the pit from him and a haggard human was thrown into the arena.

A voice called out in a strange language and the two men were forced to fight to the death. Jace knocked the other man unconscious, but refused the killing blow. The two burly guards entered the arena and crushed the loser's skull beneath heavy iron boots, then dragged Jace to a holding pen. From there, Jace rested and contemplated his situation while a number of other duels took place.

It was then that Jace noticed the strange marks on his right arm. A number of faintly glowing sigils had been tattooed or branded on his forearm. From the glow, it was obvious to Jace that these markings were magical, but he had no recollection of how he ended up marked thus.

He examined the markings closely and determined that there were five individual symbols, interlinked with various runes and patterns. The first, closest to his wrist, was a crescent moon shape, horns reaching for his palm. Inside the moon was a hollow circle topped by a solid rectangle. The second resembled a shield, with the shape of an orb-topped scepter within. The third was a flaming scimitar. The fourth sigil reminded Jace of both a flower and a stick figure, but had a few ornamental features that made the shape difficult to interpret. The final sigil, resting just below the hollow of his elbow, was a clenched fist.

The sigils meant nothing to Jace.

(I'm using the old D&D novel, adventure, computer game "Azure Bonds" as the basis for the main storyline for this campaign. I've let Myles know from the beginning that the story is there, the answers to his magical markings can be found in the world, but he is under no obligation to follow that story. I'm letting him lose in this world and if he chooses to ignore the sigils and go on a murder hobo loot fest, that's his prerogative.)

Slightly rested and still weaponless, Jace was thrown out into the arena again, this time facing three ragged humans. The fight was short, and again Jace was victorious. The spectators demanded more action after such a brief brawl, and without even a chance to catch his breath, Jace found himself face-to-face against a mad ape.

The battle was more brutal than before, but Jace managed to pull through, albeit with severe injuries.

The crowd was much appeased.

That night, back in his cell, the voice that had risen Jace from sleep introduced himself as Fikri Kazemi, a fellow prisoner in the fighting pits, although much too thin and old to provide much in the way of entertainment for the bloodthirsty masses.

During his conversation with Fikri, Jace discovered that rather than a few days since his flight to Kyrenai, it had actually been nearly eight months. Furthermore, they weren't even in the temperate land of Ashgara, the only realm Jace had ever known. They were actually prisoners in Zhadon, the capital city of the desert land of Oharos. Fikri warned Jace that a sentence to the Zhadon fighting pits was a death sentence.

Fikri took an unusual interest in Jace, asking about his homeland and about his life prior to his imprisonment. Unfortunately, Jace had few answers to give the native Oharosi. He was only 18 and was too young to really have taken much of an interest in his life thus far.

The next morning Jace found himself dragged back into the arena. Provided with a rusty dagger, he fought a pair of native tribal warriors and was able to defeat them without too much trouble. A short rest in the holding pen later, the guards thrust him back into the pit to a roar of excitement from the assembled crowd, and Jace found himself in a dual against a feral lion.

The two combatants tore each other to shreds and Jace was definitely on Death's door, but as the lion lunged forward for the kill, the crowd roared and Jace rolled underneath the animal and slit the beast's underbelly open, spilling his entrails onto the dirt. (Myles was down to 2 hit points and the lion still had a healthy amount… but Myles rocked a critical hit and was able to end the beast with that final blow!)

Jace was dragged back to his cell as night fell again. The guards brought him a surprisingly large dinner and as they returned to their posts, Fikri called Jace over. He told Jace that he had a wealthy friend that had bribed the guards and booked passage on a ship heading back to Ashgara. Fikri asked Jace if he would like to come along, and the boy agreed immediately.

Later that night, the guards opened Fikri's cell and the Oharosi commanded them to open Jace's too, as well as equip the boy with a pair of daggers and a leather jerkin. The guards obeyed, much to Jace's surprise, then Fikri and Jace fled across the city.

They reached the ship and Fikri admitted that while he had legitimate passage on the ship, Jace did not. A deal was struck with a crewmember, but Jace would have to make the three day voyage shut inside a small crate in the storage hold.

Jace reluctantly agreed.

He climbed into the crate and Fikri handed him a large waterskin and a pouch of dried meat.

"I am sorry, my friend," the Oharosi said as he smiled at Jace, "but this is going to be very, very uncomfortable."

With those words, the crewman lowered the top of the crate, and Jace was engulfed in darkness.

As each nail was driven in, Jace felt the darkness shrink and eventually swallow him, and he wondered if he would go mad…

(These first series of encounters was to give Myles a chance at playing a rogue and let him feel like even getting a weapon and a bit of armor was a decent accomplishment. If Myles ever chooses to return to Zhadon and the realm of Oharos, I have my share of plans. But it's all up to him…)

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