(What follows is the intro text for this year's Christmas one-shot, set in Aurikesh and using my SIFRP hack.)
You awaken in a natural cavern, with a muddy floor. It is lit by a single tallow candle that burns in a crevice in the wall. All of your possessions, save for the clothes on your back, have been stolen by whoever beat you up and brought you here (though you still have a small complement of prepared spells, if any); you are desperately hungry. A few other individuals, presumably victims of the same kidnapping that you suffered (and likewise worse for wear), are just now stirring.
The only obvious way out of this chamber is a narrow, jagged tunnel leading somewhat downward. Hearing footsteps and low, growling voices from that passage, you fake slumber, keeping your eyes just barely cracked. Four more people crowd into this chamber; three are massive Gorgrom, monstrosities that dwell in the mountains and the badlands of Pereil* and Ferradona.** They have pallid, tough skin that ripples over dense, corded muscle. One of them drops a bundle in the middle of the room. It moans in pain.
Accompanying them is a human who seems to be giving them orders. You note the glint of his metal armor under his tiger-skin cloak. A long, curved sword is bared in his hand, and a starlock pistol is tucked into his belt. The tiger-skin cloak answers a few of your questions by itself; such trophies are the distinctive insignia of an elite cadre of warriors, the Tiger's Claw, who serve Var Dyrak.
Var Dyrak is one of the most feared wizards in all of Balioth,*** powerful in both sorcery and politics. His famous stronghold (which, years earlier, he seized from a dark cult) stands at the end of a long, narrow peninsula in a storm-wracked sea, on the coast of Merestine.† It is fiercely guarded by the Tiger's Claw, warding magics, and monsters such as the Gorgrom he recruits into his service. Who can say what else is hidden in his tower, waiting to be unleashed against any who cross him?
What is Var Dyrak planning, that would lead him to capture you - and in fact keep you so close to all of his secrets? What will it cost you to uncover his secrets, foil his plans, and win your freedom?
(Geography notes. You do not need to know this; it is included here chiefly to communicate flavor in broad strokes.)
*Pereil is a bitterly cold northern domain. It borders on Ferradona to the south, Merestine to the southeast, and the sea in all other directions. The kagandi call the domain of Pereil by the name Atramyr's Crown. Pereil is expansive, but huge expanses of it are uninhabited.
**The domain of Ferradona sits on the western coast of the continent. It borders on Pereil in the north, Merestine in the northeast, Aiverny in the east, Dalassiria in the east, and Rindaria in the south. Most of Ferradona is heavily populated and prosperous, save for its northernmost province. The kagandi call the domain of Ferradona by the name Perch of the Falcon.
***Balioth is the name of the continent. It is north of Sestomera and west of Istra; each continent is separated from the others by miles and miles of ocean. Balioth is inhabited in approximately equal numbers by humans and kagandi, and by smaller numbers of veytikka and beruch. No one really knows how many Gorgrom there are in Balioth, but most people assume there are, at most, a few thousand in total.
†Merestine is a small domain on the northern coast of Balioth. It borders on Pereil in the west, Ferradona in the southwest, Aiverny in the south, and Hullorne in the east. The kagandi call the domain of Merestine by the name Martyr's Bells.
(If you're tired of reading about me slowly building Aurikesh, I apologize, and warn you that there are at least three more posts on this topic coming up in the next week or two.)