Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Campaign: The Precarious Earth


The Precarious Earth: From the Forest

Who leaves the pine-tree, leaves his friend,
Unnerves his strength, invites his end.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Woodnotes"

This is a tale of a world called Gabbent. It begins in a forest named Olemheiden. This forest is unlike almost all of the other forests on Gabbent. In Olemheiden grow the orulins. Imagine a misty-topped mountain made of oak, with bark so thick elves carve homes in it without reaching the hard wood, and branches so wide pigs and poultry are ranched there and gardens are grown there. Imagine a tree which, if you climbed to the very top, the highest redwoods in the forest below would be no more than blades of grass, and mountains a hundred miles away are clearly visible. Imagine a tree that is unreachable from the ground without climbing a staircase a thousand feet high that wraps round the trunk 5 times. Before you've even reached the lowest living area of the orulin, you are far, far above the treetops. Once you do reach them, you are protected by unassailable defenses manned by the tribe's defenders at all hours of the day and night.

And for five of the six tribal trees of Olemheiden, this still holds true. For the sixth, tragedy has struck. A massive earthquake of unprecendented force ripped Jeraslan in half. In this home of the most influential tribe, the strength of nature overwhelmed the tightest defense and tore these people from their home by tearing their home apart at the roots. For most of the trees of the forest, their roots only reach into the soft earth. The singular earthquake shook them, tilted some, displaced others, killed but few. Jeraslan, on the other hand, has roots that reach down to the very bedrock. And when that bedrock split, Jeraslan tried to go with it in two different directions.

The aftermath was swift and violent. Branches a quarter mile long fell from the tree, destroying elven homes and tossing elven bodies like leaves dropping onto the distant forest floor. The trunk, splitting up the middle, sliced elven homes in half as if cut with a razor. The Jeraslan tribe panicked. Those who could flee with magic did, perhaps taking the older and infirm with them. Others had to build rope bridges just to climb down the stairs. Jeraslan's fabled Cataract was washed out by the shifting earth which meant that the pulleys the elves normally used were useless. The entire tribe evacuated in two directions. Some went south to the smaller orulin named Kellingeth. Most went north, to Tulerohk.

Lucas, a battle-worn Paladin from Jeraslan, took his granddaughter with him to watch the last of the refugees. Their task was to escort these stragglers from Jeraslan to Tulerohk, through a forest filled with enemies. As if this weren't hard enough, the breaking of the Cataract flooded most of northern Olemheiden. The weary travellers had to fight hard through gnoll-infested swampland to reach their destination.

In Tulerohk, the statesmen called a joint council of the two orulins to discuss what to do about the Jeraslanders. Tulerohk, now badly overcrowded, needed many new dwellings built for the Jeraslanders; and who was going to pay for this? Who would provide the labor? The council of Jeraslan agreed that in exchange for the concession of room to live in Tulerohk, Jeraslan's engineers would reroute the Showerhair canal and build a new Cataract for Tulerohk, giving them the economic advantages Jeraslan had before the earthquake.

At this same council meeting, an expert in the caretaking of orulins revealed a surprise: that Jeraslan was alive, but dying. Steps would have to be taken to rescue the tree. This arborist by the name of Haft made a motion to bring a party of warriors with him back to Jeraslan and try to heal the breath roots, the vital stems which regulate the growth and are necessary for the survival of an orulin. When it was agreed that this would be done, one more proposal was made: send forces to stamp out the gnolls, once and for all. It was Lucas who proposed this, and his proposal to lead these forces was enthusiastically accepted.

The characters chose to accompany Haft and heal the breath roots, despite the rumors of an infestation of creatures living in the caverns underneath Jeraslan.