The World of DaNar

Justice
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

Decision

After the encounter with the great wyrm, a council was formed and it was decided that our next point of action would be to head off Aiogh Grimbor before he could get to Angler’s Cove. Sorscha, Lazarus, Olt, and I were tasked with this mission. To expedite our trip, we went to the Crimson Spire to ask Nathaniel for his aid.

We got to the Spire and knocked on the door just as the first rays of morning light began to peak up over the Rise. They spilled through the dew gathered on the trees which grew about the Spire. As I stared at the tiny rainbows cast by this combination of water and sunlight, Sorscha spoke: “Are these trees… bigger than you remember?”

The door swung open, and Caleb stepped out to greet us, sweat staining his clothes and a towel draped around his neck. “Oh, it’s you! Come on in, my cousin should be up… soon.” We followed him into the tower, and he proceeded to give us a grand tour of the facilities, being fairly obvious about the fact that he was trying to stall us while his layabout cousin took his sweet time rising.

Among other things, the tour included a lavish dining room with platters full of delicious smelling foods. Were I subject to hunger, the dishes would have made me salivate. As it was, I felt mildly irritated. “… Are the townspeople still low on food?” I asked aloud. Caleb seemed taken aback, even offended. “You don’t think that we would withhold this here while the folk out there starved, do you?” I said nothing. Several uncomfortable minutes followed until Nathaniel finally came downstairs looking very disgruntled to see us.

Angler’s Cove

Blinding light flashed through the grey early morning mist. A loud crack rang in the air and as an ancient arcane symbol scorched the ground, hissing as water turned to steam. We appeared in a downpour outside the walls of Angler’s Cove. A loud alarm went up momentarily, before one of the Covemen shouted “It’s the Risers!”

We walked toward the Fish Head Tavern, accompanied by one of the guard captains. “Captain Alderrin will want to talk to you. Refugees have been trickling in from some foul business up north. He’s got a girl with him. Sad little thing she is, and with a monstrous tale to tell.”

In the Fish Head we sat and talked with Alderrin. He gave us ill news on the state of the villages that Aiogh Grimbor had been through this far. A slight young girl at his side told us her story in the dull, droning monotone of detached sorrow. It was quite grim.

She had come from one of the villages up north. Grimbor came through a week or so ago, and he and his band of Bowmen started torturing and killing townsfolk. They would interrogate each in a similar manner, asking the same questions to each: Where are your coin and gems; are there any Watchmen in this village; who among you has aided the Watchmen.

Invariably there would be terrified denials and screams of anguish before the end, when the victim confessed to any and every crime imaginable. It went on like this for days. Grimbor would take his time with the villages: killing, torturing, maiming, raping. And then he would move on to the next. I would say that the girl had been lucky to escape, but surviving with such atrocities burned into one’s mind might actually be worse than death.

After the girl had finished her story, Alderrin led us to the stables where his men had prepared horses for us. We packed everything up in short order, and the good Captain ordered three of his men to accompany us. Before we left, I pulled him aside. “Not all of us agree with the understanding between Red Quaid and Exilar,” I told him, “If I see him, I will kill him.”

Alderrin nodded, and said he appreciated my sympathy for the men that Quaid had killed. He said also he understood that Exilar made a choice which had to be made. Difficult, maybe. But with the insanity afoot in the Wildlands of late, any agreement that kept the Bowmen from adding more bloodshed to the mix might be welcome.

The Town that Walked

There were two villages to the north that we’re in a direct line from Aiogh Grimbor’s last known location to Angler’s Cove. The village of Reston was first. Though we made haste toward it the ride was most of a day. We got there by dusk, and found the people to be in good health, and happy. I steeled myself to once again play the role of the unkind messenger. We sought out the present leadership and asked for a meeting with the village elders.

We fielded uncomfortable questions from the villagers as we waited for the elders. I do not mince words, and I could see that they were starting to panic given what I had to say. I was glad to see the bald head and grey robes of the man introduced as Elder Tabor, apparently the only living elder left in this small village. I could give him the grim tidings and let him decide what would be done with his people.

Soon enough, everyone in the village was packing up all the belongings that they could carry onto mules, oxen, cows; I even saw some shepherds fastening makeshift saddle-bags to their sheep. In a matter of hours, the lives of the town were completely uprooted. I took my quick sleep, then stood watch in the night. By the first light of dawn, Reston was on the move. The soul of the town walked off to the south, leaving behind an empty shell.

Revenge

As Reston moved south toward the Cove, we quickly made our way north. Lazarus, Olt, and Alderrin’s men rode while Sorscha and I scouted ahead to either side of the main road. The dark elf was almost as fast on foot as she was riding, and deathly silent even when moving through the tall grass. Somehow I managed to keep within a hundred or so paces of her.

We moved through half the day, and the sun was just beginning to peak through the mist overhead when we heard the sound of people marching south along the road ahead of us. I moved closer to the line of trees on the eastern side of the road and watched as the procession came around a bend and began to march between Sorscha and myself.

There were forty, maybe fifty people in total among the band of Bowmen. Some were clearly survivors from the neighboring village to the north, with tattered bloodstained rags for clothing, bruised faces, and broken noses. The others were among the most foul-looking Bowmen that I have ever seen. And in the center of all of them, towering above the rest, was Aiogh Grimbor.

He stood seven feet tall, head raised high above the rest. Covering his body was a large set of steel full-plate armor, on his head was a helmet, with the face plate open so that he could shout commands to his minions. Attached to his waist, on eyelets in the steel armor, were four chains. On the end of them, hurrying forward in front of him, or being pulled along on blistered and bloody feet behind, were children. Steel collars chafed around their necks, making them bleed as they were pulled along by the sadistic Bowman. Grimbor’s face held nothing but utter glee.

A violent rage, like the current of a great river, welled up inside of me at that moment, and in one fluid motion rushed out of my limbs. It moved my legs, silent and swift, into a position where I had perfect line of sight the the foul demon’s grinning face. It flowed through my arms, in three powerful bursts, to the quiver at my side, then to my bowstring, then back as I drew the string of my bow and let my arrows fly. One, two, sunk deep into Grimbor’s face through that foul grin; the third deflected off his helmet.

Chaos erupted as the marching line became a battlefield. A bearded man with a staff near the eastern edge of the formation turned toward my position and a gout of flames erupted from his hands. I ducked under the flame, but was burned by the momentary fire that broke out in the brush under my feet. Grimbor looked across the field directly to me, and continued his nauseating grin as he ripped the arrows from his face. He straightened his back and flexed his arms inward, as if pulling some invisible force toward himself.

A hazy glowing mist began to form around the children chained to his belt, and flowed out toward Grimbor. As the mist disappeared into his body, the wounds on his face began to close. The children withered into dessicated husks, and fell down dead. Immediately, Grimbor’s minions hurried to his side with a fresh batch of children, unlocking the collars from the dead and fastening them around the throats of the living. Then Grimbor hefted his huge maul with one hand, and ran toward me, laughing.
As the hulking demon charged, a ballista bolt caught him squarely in the jaw, another glanced off his armor, and a third missed wide, impaling one of the surrounding Bowmen. I looked to my left as I backed toward the woods, and saw Lazarus, guiding his horse with his knees and holding his mammoth bow, blow Grimbor a kiss. The arrow had torn the flesh off Grimbor’s face, ripping his mouth into a bloody, jagged, ear to ear smile. His eyes burned with pain and hatred as he closed the faceplate of his helmet and kept coming toward me.

I backed further into the forest, putting space and trees between myself and Grimbor. I had a perfect line of sight to the mage that had burned me, so I stuck him with three arrows and he slumped onto the ground. The next set of chained children fell down dead, along with a number of the villagers and Bowmen surrounding the armored demon, as he drew their life force in to heal his wounds. This time instead of simply desiccating, his victims turned to ash, leaving the chains at his side hanging free.

Grimbor began to spin, moving inhumanly fast through the forest toward me. In the blink of an eye, the trees that had been my shield were cut down in a whirl of splinters and fine wood-dust. Steam rose from the stumps as rain hit them and hissed. Through the slats in his helmet, I could see the gleam of joy in Grimbor’s eyes; I used it as a target, and shot my arrows toward them as I tumbled away into the cover of more trees. All three shots glanced off the mad Bowman’s helmet, and he cackled as he started to spin again.

As the second set of trees fell around me, I heard a shout from the roadway toward my left “AIM FOR THE GEMS!”. I tumbled back a second time, toward the last patch of forest left on this side of the road. As I rose to my feet, I scanned Grimbor’s body for any indication of a glowing gem like that which we found on Trask. On his belt, and again on the gorget of his armor, I saw purplish glowing light. I took a deep breath, steadied my bow, and fired.

Peals of thunder cut through the air as my shots hit home. The gemstone on Grimbor’s belt buckle shattered into a fine powder, and the one on his gorget cracked as he stumbled backward. A shadow erupted from behind the behemoth’s back, as Sorscha clutched at the gem around his throat. The taut, cord-like muscles in the dark-elf’s arm constricted, and she simultaneously ripped upward on the gorget while using Grimbors backward momentum and the weight of his hulking frame to throw his body to the ground. With a loud, wet tearing sound the gorget and gem ripped free from Grimbor’s body along with the bloody mass of his esophagus.

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Holes in the Dam
Journal entry of Exelar Vitarri

Sometimes I’m reminded of a story my father used to tell me as a child “Octava reddes illum diffluere”(The Leaking Dam). It tells of a boy who comes upon a leak in a dam that if destroyed would wipe out his town, so without thinking he placed his finger in the hole and stopped the leak. Problem solved right? Wrong. Now he was trapped there with his finger in the dam; but lives had been saved, until another crack appears in which he places another finger. Soon another crack appears and he’s all alone, fortunately another child happens by and places their finger in the new crack. So on and so forth goes the story. The moral of the story is not what my mind is drawn to but the boy, trying to save lives by stopping leaks in a dam.

Everytime we plug a hole in the dam another crack appears. After striking a massive blow against the Bowmen at the Cascades and simultaneously gaining an ally , then putting an end to the Carrion Hill Horror, and now having taken over the former Bowmen compound in Carrion Hill, as well as striking a non aggression pact with Bloodfyres Bowmen battle group, another crack appears. Bloodfyre’s men contacted me and wished to meet again.

They tell of a group of Bowmen that have been attacking villages, making it clear they have nothing to do with the attacks, and that the group are rogue Bowmen. The rogue leader, Aodh Grimbor, whose brother we killed, was afflicted with an even more chaotic entity than the one that afflicted Trask. Another breach in the dam.

With another week until the rescheduled ball is to take place we decided to act on this information now, especially since their path had them on a collision course with Anglers Cove. Since Nathaniel Bronnson had left for the The Spire we had no way of directly contacting him so it was decided the group would travel to Anglers Cove in the morning and I would travel to Temple Rise and gather Nathaniel and reinforcements and meet them back at Anglers Cove. With a prayer I appeared back at Temple Rise.

After the surprise of my sudden appearance wore off I was quickly surrounded by the residents of Temple Rise. Of course, Gruendach chased them away when he arrived as he had important information for me, my time at the Rise had been shorter than desirable, yet here were more leaks to plug.

After updating me on the goings on at Temple Rise and Lochaid he asks if I could spare some time to make formal introductions between the Wyrkadrin dwarves and some dwarves that had arrived at Lochaid recently. Their family home was gone and when word had gotten to them about the dwarves of Shädenhome they traveled here to reestablish a connection with them. Another crack in the dam, this one should be easy to fill.

Since I was leaving in the morning I agreed to help but it had to be tonight, so I had the acolytes get Artax saddled and ready to go while Gruendach readied the dwarves for the trip. Before I leave I must spend time with the acolytes, I feel like their training has been lacking. Another breach in the dam. I made my way to the Spire to find Nathaniel, so he would be ready in the morning. The Spire seems to change every time I see it; it now gives a feeling of….I want to say life. Maybe more of intelligence, that’s not right either. Well whatever it is the feeling of despair that used to emanate from it is no longer present. Has this rupture in the dyke been filled?

Apparently Nathaniel has acquired some arcane guards, he refers to them as the “Grey Guards”, hopefully they stay on our side. After filling him in I tell him we’ll be heading out at first light. I then headed back to Temple Rise. His demeanor seems different while at the Spire, his sense of confidence is a welcome change from the unsure novice I first met. Though the warnings of Ser Seifer Garrow do seep into my mind, mages make powerful allies… and enemies. Hopefully this will not be another hole in the dam.

Back at the Rise, as I readied to leave, the sounds of horns blowing caused everyone to stop what they were doing. But the sound of a dragons roar splitting the night air struck fear into the hearts of the populace.

Staggering or running across the bridge were dozens of refugees from Shadenhome. Mostly women and children, but led by a few warriors who were suffering from severe burns. Through the chaos I learn the dwarves had been attacked by an unknown force from below when the dragon attacked. They evacuated everyone they could. Their king and prince mustering a number of Wyrkadrin warriors to hold the line as long as possible giving the non-combatants and wounded time to withdraw.

Yelling out instructions to the acolytes, one to get the cleric of Pelor, Ghoulhammer, and the other to find Nathaniel at the Spire and tell him to bring back as many companions as he could from Carrion Hill. Gruendok was gathering the remaining dwarves that had been staying with us and what warriors he could quickly muster.

Since Artax was already saddled I mounted and rode off by myself. Hopefully this rupture in the dam I could stymie until help arrives…

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Keepers
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

Myer

The stench at Rupmann’s vats was unbearable, and the fumes from the middenstone stung my eyes. The building looked deserted as we approached. We had apparently beaten the creature there, as I could feel no rumbling in the ground. We found the door and made our way inside.

I thought this place smelled bad on the outside. The stench within was tenfold worse. The door opened onto a raised stone platform, approximately square and maybe ten feet off the ground. On the floor below, the walls to either side were lined with boiling vats of midden, with little alleyways in between, presumably for the workers.

There was a catwalk leading from the raised platform across the room to another raised platform of similar size. Leading off of the other platform was an ornate oak door, its varnish peeling and warped from long-term exposure to the midden fumes. Deciding that this was likely the office, and probably where Keeper Myer would be hiding, we walked across the catwalk and opened the door.

keeper_myer.jpg

Rupmann Myer was clearly insane. The office walls were covered with drawings of five-pointed stars, some of them with tentacles, and all of them in a dark rust-brown color that could only be dried blood. Papers and small sculptures littered the floor of the room. From the darkness of the room’s far corner erupted a wild-eyed grey-haired man, shrieking incomprehensible strings of nonsense. In his hand he held a rod which glowed with a pale green light. “Kill them! Kill them all!” Ruppmann shrieked, waving the rod around.

Behind us, we heard a loud groaning. Down on the floor, zombies began to emerge, shuffling through the corridors between the vats. Some held large, wooden instruments that looked like shovels; apparently for stirring the boiling midden. Nathaniel looked enraged; disgusted. Seifer looked like he would kill Myer on the spot. Sorscha stepped up to the madman and knocked him unconscious in one fluid motion. “Tie him up. We need to get out of here.”

Hive

As we ran from the vats with Myer in-tow, we felt slight tremors in the ground, followed by a nearby rumbling crash. We had gotten out just in time. We paused beneath the awning of a nearby building to discuss our plan of action. It was determined that Exilar, Nathaniel, Caleb, Mianissa, and Seifer would take Myer to the docks, and try to get passage to Angler’s Cove. Sorscha, Lazarus, and I, along with Boris Cotton and a couple of his men, would head to the Elm Way Church to find Arland Hive.

The church was silent as we approached. One of its large doors stood open. After a quick search of the outside of the building, Sorscha led the way in. The inside of the church was just as quiet and deserted. All of the rooms were scarce-used; full of old furnishings and broken antiquities.

I heard a call from another room as I was searching some sort of office. Sorscha had found a trapdoor, with a ladder leading down into a lower level of the building. We climbed down and found ourselves in one of the many tunnels of the catacombs which ran beneath Carrion Hill. If Hive was down here, we needed to find him and get him out quickly.

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There was a lit torch near an opening down in the darkness of the tunnel. We approached silently. I could hear muttering coming from inside the room as we drew closer. I took a step around the corner, and was met with a loud shriek as a crazy, wild-eyed old man smashed a vial of something foul-smelling across my face. Bits of glass stuck in my cheek, but I managed to shrug off the effects of whatever poison he had used. Sorscha stepped up and, once again, pummeled the madman into unconsciousness. We tied him up and carried him up the ladder.

After Cotton had confirmed that the poison-brewing madman was indeed Arland Hive, it was time for us to move on to Crove’s Asylum. Sorscha and I both thought it best that Hive not be brought along, because we would essentially be concentrating the presence of life essence for which the creature was searching. I thought it best of Cotton and his men took Hive, and found a safe place to hide out with him while Sorscha and I searched for Crove at the asylum. Cotton took objection to this, and insisted on coming along.

“Argue as long as you wish; I have decided,” I said, and then drew back my bow, channeling my ki and teleporting as I let the arrow fly. I landed at the edge of a roof near Crove’s asylum, and teetered on the edge for a moment before finding my balance and shimmying down some lattice-work on the east side of the building. As my feet touched the ground, Sorscha rounded the corner, alone. “I see that I won us that argument.” We both hurried on toward the asylum.

In the Asylum

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In the entryway to the asylum there were three inmates in straight jackets, rolling around on the floor and muttering garbled nonsense. As we entered the building, the lunatics sat up and looked at us, then began shrieking. Two big men wielding clubs, with cages over their faces and scars across their foreheads, came running in from the opposite side of the room, charging toward us to attack. Sorscha acted quickly, dropping a globe of darkness in the center of the room and running through it before the orderlies could get to us. I followed close behind.

I could hear the sounds of orderlies grunting, and screams of pain coming from within the darkness as I shut the door carefully behind me. In the next room, we found that there was one door standing open. Not having any other good means of determining where Crove might be, we decided to go through it. It led down a long, dimly-lit stairwell, into the basement level of the asylum.

At the bottom, the stairs opened into a wide chamber, with hallways extending more than a hundred paces in either direction. Again, we found a door that stood open, and again we went through it, having no better direction to follow. As we walked through the room, Sorscha momentarily doubled over, staggering forward a bit. She looked as if she might vomit right there. I stopped and watched to make sure that she would be okay. When the moment passed, she managed to push through whatever pain she was experiencing, and join me on the other side of the room.

In front of us was yet another long hallway, dimly lit by guttering tallow candles. A drop of water would fell from the ceiling and landed next to one of the flames, spattering in the pool of animal fat close to the wick with a sizzle. Toward the end of the hallway, I could hear a loud, rhythmic clanging. Closer to us I could hear some grumbling and moaning, coming from behind several barred doors spread throughout the length of the corridor. We started down the hall. A third of the way through the hall was a tunnel that opened to the right, which that led into a deep cavern so dark that I almost couldn’t discern the iron bars that shut the passage off. Not wanting to get too close to that savage darkness, I continued on.

From behind me, I heard Sorscha mutter a curse under her breath, apparently directed down the black tunnel. I paused to listen, and could hear a voice that rasped like a snake’s belly over sand, speaking in some dark tongue. The voice was coming from just inside the tunnel. I must have stared right at the creature and been completely blind to its presence. I shuddered and began to move once again. Whatever conversation was being shared between them, I already understood all that I ever would about it: I did not want to see what was behind those bars.

As I moved down the hall, I passed two more barred doors, which opened onto small cells. Inside the first was a very large man, staring mindlessly forward and drooling. In the second was a man who almost looked normal, apart from the ragged beard and large scar on his forehead. He stared at me, wide-eyed, and walked up to the bars, pleading for me to speak with him. I recalled the last time that I approached an unstable man behind bars; the stink of Cutter’s kuso on my face. I stayed well away, on the opposite side of the corridor, and continued down toward the rhythmic clanging.

The hall ended in a sharp turn to the right, after which the corridor continued for about 10 feet more, terminating in a large stone wall in which set a solid iron door with a barred viewport. I stepped up to the door, and looked through the viewport. On the other side, there was a second set of bars, which extended from floor to the ceiling, about 20 feet up. Beyond those bars was a large, cavernous chamber containing what looked like a small pond.

Inside that cavern, banging on the iron bars, apparently trying to break them down, was another chaos beast. It looked much like the one that Nathaniel had inadvertently summoned in the swamp, only much, much smaller; it was only twice my size. On seeing my face peek through the porthole, it let out a mind-wrenching shriek, and began to rattle the bars more fiercely, slamming it head against them, biting at them, and shaking large gobs of thick, grey translucent ooze from its mouth as it did so. I backed away from the door quickly, and ran back down the hall toward my companion.

Crove

Sorscha was talking to the lucid inmate as I approached her. His name, apparently, was Ploog, and he used to work at this asylum. He had found out that Crove was running a cult, and using the residents of the asylum in all sorts of twisted experiments. Crove found Ploog before he was able to alert the authorities, and tried to lobotomize him to keep him silent. The lobotomy wasn’t a complete success, thus Ploog had been locked up here, in the dungeon. We set him free, and he led us toward what he said was Crove’s office.

Walking back through the room from which we had entered the hallway, Sorscha again doubled over in pain. Ploog, too, staggered as he crossed the threshold of the door. Sorscha looked up at the ceiling, and I followed her gaze. Inscribed on the roof above our heads was some arcane sigil, interspersed with five-pointed stars and other symbols that I remembered seeing in the Pnakotic text that we found in Keeper Marshawn’s basement. The sigil glowed with a faint, sickly-green light. We hurried past it, and into the hallway leading to Crove’s private office.

At the end of a hall was a door, which opened onto a small, tidy room. Ploog stopped me in front of the door, and requested a weapon. I looked at him, hesitant. If my skull had been opened by a madman, and part of my brain had been removed, I know what I would do to that man, if I had a weapon.

I pulled out the cold Iron longsword that I used to deliver Xar’eth’s final judgement, and handed it to Ploog. “You must not kill him,” I said, before I let go of the hilt. “He and his chaos cult have summoned a beast that has already destroyed several buildings and killed many people around the Crown. It may be able to feed off of the life energy of its summoners. We are not sure, but killing Crove may strengthen the beast.” Ploog looked at me, uncertain, perhaps a little pained by the thought that he could not exact his revenge, and then nodded. I let go of the sword’s hilt, and we stepped into the office.

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Monsters, Madness, and Middenstone
Nathaniel Bronnson

It almost seems as if our work here in Wildlands never ends. Having gone from defeating Ivar Trask in the ruins of the sink, to discovering I am not alone in being a Spire Master, and now running around the Boil trying to save the lives of detestable men in order to stop what I believe is another abomination related to chaotic sleeping horror that has plagued me and my companions throughout my tenure here in the Wildlands. It seems that while my own powers grow, so does the weight of mental exhaustion and stress that comes with trying to survive in this region.

Though I complain here in my journal, I try my best not to let my companions see this. Though often enough, I feel that exhaustion shines through in my inability to hold a solid conversation without seeming bitter or snappy. Stuck between the stress of my newfound responsibilities, my dedication to Lord Exelar and the Watchmen, and the very strong desire to prove to my companions that I am someone they can trust and rely on in these dangerous places.

These are the thoughts that slipped through the cracks in my resolve as Lord Exelar, Sir Seipher, and myself escorted this disgusting man named Myre Rupman quickly through the muddy streets of the boil in order to save him from his own mistakes. This man who makes his living by working with refuse in the midden vats to create the building blocks of the city and profiting off the backs of the bodies of undead who tirelessly toiled in his midden vats.

Those poor souls enslaved by Myre should have been put to rest and their bodies left to their graves. I could not bear it if one of those zombies had been one of the people I considered family or friend. His practice of necromancy is foulness of the highest order. I consider it a perversion of magic and its intended purposes and it took much of my willpower not to destroy him where he stood. It was at the behest of my companions and their reasoning that his destruction might strengthen the beast hunting him that I stayed my hand. Though I think killing him will rob the creature of the essence is so desires. Never the less, I feel that my willingness to kill comes too easily these days.

I cannot begin to stress the level distaste I harbor for this man. In his hubris and arrogance he and his fellow "Keepers Of the Eldest " succeeded in releasing what I had discovered to be a spawn of the elder god of Chaos known to mortal men as Yog-Sothoth. A god of pure madness. These fools let it loose in the city of carrion hill. In their folly they did not realize that it hunted them and wished them dead.

After obtaining the copy of the Nakotic Tome from the sunless grove in the tunnels beneath the city (which i later discovered had a good deal of information on the magical workings of portals and inter-planar travel) that we surmised that the “keepers” used it to summon the creature of chaos and that it hunted them in order to consume their essence and solidify its power and connection to this plane of existence for reasons I did not want to even BEGIN to fathom. It was from this discovery that we set out to find the remaining “keepers” and protect them from this abomination. Hopefully killing it in the process though I do not know how.

It as decided that getting Myre as far from the city as possible was the best course of action. As the city itself was a hub of chaotic energy. Maybe getting him out of the bounds of that magic would prevent the creature from getting to his prey. The rain had picked up as we quickly made our way through the muddy streets of the boil.

Finally arriving at the south gate of the city where we intended to enlist them help of a boatman that was an ally of the Watchmen. After our meeting with him as well as another meeting with a man who served as a spy for a Bowman leader. The Gate was crowded with a mass of citizens. Panicked from the news of the monsters attacks and clamoring to flee the city.

I used a simple piece of magic to amplify my voice to convince the throng of people to make way for us who were on urgent business for the mayor as we passed. As magic was a rarity in this area my attempt met with some measure of success Though we were stopped and questions by a Crow. It was only after another Crow commander who’s name escapes me right now vouched for us were we allowed to pass without further hindrance.

I made the mistake of feeling relief as we were getting close to escaping the city. Soon after our meetings we pressed hurriedly on through the final stretch of streets in the part of the city known as the filth leading to the docs and towards our transport out of the foul place. It was at this time that we were stopped. The outline of bowmen lines the roofs around us as well as what appeared to be the outlines of three men on their knees in the middle of the street accompanied by another man.

“Exelar Vitarri!” he shouted. “your request for a meeting with our commander has been heard!”

Lightning cracked across the sky and lit up the faces of the men barring our way as well as his captives. A Bowmen! Tied in ropes were several of our companions. My worry for their safety was suddenly drawn away at the sound of bowstrings being drawn on all sides. It surely was a trap.

It was at this time that the inscription from inside cover of the Pnakotic Tome entered my thoughts.

“May we, the Keepers of the Oldest, prevail over
the scourge of simplistic thought and lesser men.”

What foolishness and and arrogance……

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The Ruin in the Boil
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

Crows in the Duck

We made our way back into the stinking filth of the Boil with our new companion in tow. The pouch of rice I had given her was stuffed, uneaten, in her pack. Odd. Back home, cats would go crazy for onigiri… Or maybe those were just the ones stuffed with fish. Hard to tell; I have never been much of a cat person.

As we settled down in the Duck, and Olaf ordered the cook to prepare our customary meal, Olt asked the wizard Nathaniel to dry him off with one of his spells. The night I refused this service at the Fishhead, I spent five hours in front of the fire baking the water from my clothes. It felt like I was lounging in an athlete’s sock. I decided to follow the dwarf’s example. The wizard grumbled something, muttered a few words, and I began to feel the dampness being sucked from my clothing… by thousands of crawling worms. I shuddered, remembering the corrupted spell that had summoned the tentacled chaos beast in the swamp.

“What did you do to me?!”

“I dried you off. As you requested… You’re welcome?”

I looked at Caleb, “Does it always feel like maggots crawling over your flesh when he does that?”

Nathaniel and his cousin gave me disgusted, puzzled expressions and stared at me over the top of their steins as they took a drink of Olaf’s brown. I met the wizard’s stare and bowed my head slightly; “ Douzo, mahoutsukai.”

At that moment the door slammed open. Wind and rain came flying in to the Duck along with two soaking wet Crows. They slammed the door shut behind them and shuffled toward the middle of the room, looking bedraggled. “__The Mayor seeks heroes of valor, to find and kill the beast which pl__agues,” the announcer’s voice cracked as he began hacking and sneezing. The Duck had been fairly empty before, but at the mention of the words valor and beast, all of the remaining patrons save those in my party quickly made their way upstairs to their rooms, or stood up and walked out into the storm, stumbling drunkenly by the ragged town guards.

The Crow started again, sounding tired and hopeless, “Plagues the Crown. Any who are brave enough to answer the call are asked to seek out the Mayor at Rag Manor.” The Crow’s glazed eyes looked forlornly around the empty room, his gaze hanging an extra moment at the hearth, grunted, and began to turn and walk toward the door.

“We accept.” Exilar said, standing tall. The Crow startled and spun around, as if he hadn’t realized we were there. “You do?! Oh, thank the Gods!” He and his companion hurried toward the hearth and plopped down as Olaf emerged from the back with a meal for each, along with two mugs of cider, each coupled with a shot of scotch. “And thank the Gods for the Duck!”

I took a look at the soaking wet Crows, and then looked at Nathaniel. “… Don’t you think you should help them get dry?”

“Fuck off.”

Rag Manor

The Mayor told us the official account of the beast that was rampaging through the Crown as we stood in his stateroom. That morning, a building had collapsed in the Slipper Market area. A Commander Garris of the Crows responded to the scene, and reports from the guards under his command said that he was slain ‘By an unseen beast’. After some investigation, it appeared that the beast had come up from the tunnels that run under the city. All that was left behind was a foul-smelling slime. Over the course of the day, two more buildings were destroyed. As of yet, none of the structures had been entered by the guards. The Mayor offered 1500 steel for information about the beast, and an additional 3000 if it could be defeated. He also gave us 750 steel upfront as hazard pay.

Hearing about the tunnels, I was reminded of councilor Allistair Brandall (the smuggler). “Has Councilor Brandall been able to provide you with news about the tunnels?” The Mayor looked taken aback for a moment, and then said “Ah, yes, you must mean because Brandall controls access to the sewers. I am afraid I have not seen Brandall since these events took place, but I also admit that he has not been consulted. Good thinking. I shall have a messenger sent to find the good councilor and determine if he has seen anything.”

I also asked about any other events which have occurred lately, involving the sewer. The old man though for a moment before he said “Yes, now that I think about it… An adventuring group came through here, with some interest in the catacombs. They vanished about a month ago.”

The Ruin in the Boil

We stood out in the rain, walking around the perimeter of the collapsed building cautiously. Exilar was especially wary, given the hulk of shining plate that he wore. After a few minutes of examining the exterior, Sorscha and I determined it would probably safe for us to investigate the inside. We were surprised to find that tales of the building’s dilapidation had been greatly exaggerated, and beckoned the rest of the party in once we determined the floor could support the weight.

The far wall of the house was a symbol, scrawled on the wall in blood. Closer examination by the wizard revealed that it was a symbol of Yawsatthog, some kind of Elder god. Beside the symbol, a trail of foul-smelling slime led downstairs, into the basement. Sorscha and I followed the trail down, the others following shortly behind us. We descended for minutes, the stairwell growing darker with each step. As we finally got to the bottom, the stairway opened up on a cavernous room.

Toward the back of the room there was an alter on a raised platform. There was a viscous fluid running from the altar down toward the center of the room, pooling up into a large puddle around a dead body. From behind the altar, we could hear grunting, and a soft, wet, tearing and chewing sound, as of someone eating meat. Sorscha and I scouted the room as the others slowly began to descend the last part of the stairway.

On the altar was another dead body. This one looked to have been mutilated, and was missing one of its legs. As I rounded the corner I saw a ghoul chewing on the missing leg from the body on the altar, staring at a book as he ate.

Sorscha made short work of the ghoul, and we picked up the book for Nathaniel and Exilar to examine. The book proved to be a translation of something called the Nacotic Manuscripts, and contained a spell of summoning, probably for the unseen slime monster that had been wreaking havoc in the Boil.

The original text was written in Akklo, a language belonging to an ancient race of subterranean lizard people. The book was open to the summoning spell, which began with an incantation. “__May we, the keepers of the Eldest, prevail over the scourge of simplistic thought and lesser men… __”
Following that opening passage was a message about contacting the spawn of darkness, summoning in key locations, something about the spell drawing forth the spiritual essence of the casters, and something else which seemed to indicate that the summoned creature would attempt to consume the essences of the summoners, possibly gaining power each time it did so.

The ritual contained an incantation, signed in blood by five hands:

Keeper Krove
Keeper Baskerwel
Keeper Hive
Keeper Myer
Keeper Marshawn

Following the trail

Back at the Duck, we spoke with Olaf about the names in the book. Two of the Keepers, Baskerwel and Marshawn, were the bodies that we had found in the basement. The tavernkeep was also able to tell the names and occupations of the remaining three: Rupmann Myer: a middenstone baron who lived in a factory out in the Fingers; Arland Hive: master of the Elmway Church on the south side of town; Walder Krove: warden of an asylum near the southeast wall.

We decided to return to the mayor with the information gathered thus far. Perhaps he could rally some Crows to help us track down these “Keepers of the Eldest”. As we walked up the hill toward Rag Manor, we felt the ground rumbling. A deafening crash preceded a cloud of dust and debris that flew down the street from just up the road, around the corner.

The party broke into a dead run, and were at the site of destruction within moments. As we rounded the corner I saw Lazarus glance up along the rooftops next to the ruin which, until very recently, was some kind of boarding house. In one swift motion his bow was out and he let one of his ballista-sized arrows fly. A figure fell from the rooftops, screaming, to the ground by the collapsed building. It was a half-elf, minus half a leg, just below the knee where Cain’s arrow hit him.

While the rest of the party examined the corpse, Sorscha and I started searching through the rubble, looking for a way down to where the chaos beast lurked. The drow found an opening before I did, and slipped her slim frame quietly down through a gap between shattered chunks of wall into a hole in the floor. I followed immediately behind.

We were in a large dark chamber, and I stood in ankle-deep water. I could hear the sound of water flowing nearby. I wished to light a torch. Given the noxious smell of the gases assaulting my nose, it would have been a bad idea. Sorscha saw me stumbling blindly, muttered something, and a chain hanging from a fixture on the far wall began to glow with eerie light.

In the dim illumination, I was able to make out an iron gate that stood to the side of the glowing chain, through which flowed a steady stream of water. It led down a dark tunnel, which sloped downward, toward the catacombs beneath the city. The bars of the gate were broken, twisted outward. Many heavy steps fell, somewhere in the passage on the other side of that tunnel. We could tell by the ghostly splashes that echoed up through the tunnel; by the soft shaking of the ground with each foot-fall.

“We need to go tell the others.” Sorscha said.
“_Hai_, they must be told. Go. I will follow,” I said, though I did not say whom.

As Sorscha scurried her way back up from the rubble, I stepped up to the tunnel opening and drew my bow. I glanced back to see her glowing pupils staring through the darkness after me, through a gap between slabs of brick wall. I drew a deep breath along with the arrow, which I aimed down the dark tunnel in front of me. I heard the Drow woman curse as I loosed the arrow and disappeared down the darkness into the catacombs.

I do not know what I expected to accomplish. I suppose my hope was that, maybe, I could follow the sound of the beast; trail silently behind it as it made its way toward its prey. If it found one of the Keepers, I would be there to intervene. When I appeared in the pitch black tunnel, water up to my mid-calf, I could hear the heavy, splashing footsteps, and feel the rumble of the weight that they carried. As I stood, the rumbling became stronger and stronger, the splashes grew louder. Small waves of water lapped up against my legs. I could hear something halfway between a wheeze and a snarl, punctuated by a sound like far-off screaming.

Death stood before me, no more than a few heartbeats away, when an image came to mind. An ivory symbol hanging around the neck of a desiccated corpse back st Temple Rise; a symbol of Law. I quickly threw down my backpack, feeling through it for the rectangular box that held my various amulets. I opened the box, grabbed the small bundle of cords, and began ran my fingers over their pendants until I found the right one. The beast was right on top of me as I pulled the necklace out and shouted a prayer to Heironious.

Light erupted from the symbol, and I could see the creature. Four arms and fourlegs protruded from a mass of tentacles that shifted in ways that should not have been possible. It had two heads, with faces frozen in a rigor-Morris of pure terror. A mad scream rose up from somewhere in the tentacles beasts belly as it turned and ran down one of the many corridors in this section of the catacombs.

When it had gone I ran as fast as I could through the deep water, and shot my way back up through the tunnel. I wasted no time in climbing out the same way I had seen Sorscha go. I emerged from under a crumbled piece of wall as Exilar, Seifer, Sorscha, and Olt were straining to lift it. They looked at me, incredulous. Sorscha took her hands off the wall and grabbed a brick, hauling it back behind her head in preparation to throw it at me. “It is heading for the vats!” I said between gasping breaths.

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What Lies Beneath
Journal entry of Exelar Vitarri

While splitting up from the party was not my first choice I couldn’t trust anyone else in the transport of Trask to Temple Rise. While setting him up to perform manual labor I couldn’t help but remember something my father said to me once ‘What is better, to be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?’ While I don’t think all of the Bowmen are evil by nature, it worries me that by repeatedly committing evil acts by either choice or coercion that it could become part of your nature. Possibly seep into your soul.

Olt asked me to deliver a message to his grandfather detailing his discovery of the Oirthuir Clans plan to destroy them. He took the news with his normal stoicism, simply stating ’It’s war then’. I of course offered any assistance. After accepting the offer of a room for the night I left before dawn so I could do morning services at Temple Rise. Thanks to the growing power of Nathaniel Bronnson and The Spire I was able to transport back to Anglers Cove to reunite with my companions.

Upon my arrival I was informed by the captain that they had recently left for Carrion Hill. He escorted me down to the docks and after introducing me to several people I was able to acquire free passage. Word of the accomplishments of The Watchmen have spread rapidly and people are willing to openly offer assistance to us. With the fear of Bowmen reprisal lessening everyday our job has become easier, especially with recruiting new members.

The smell of The Boil will be something that I hope will never be something I get used to. Even as I try to power through until higher ground is reached I can’t but help notice something had the city on edge. Instead of seeing more crows in the city there seemed to be less, of course most of the populace are staying inside too, so maybe they didn’t need the extra help. As I finally reached the Mucky Duck my companions are walking out.

They inform me they’re heading to meet with the mayor, apparently there was some kind of explosion recently inside the city and he has asked for assistance. With several people giving me information I almost miss the voice of the newest member of our group. Introducing herself as Mianissa, she is Catfolk which kinda surprises me since they are not known for being residents of the Wildlands. I have no idea how she’ll get the smell of this place out of her fur. As we head to our destination I walk with Olt and inform him of my conversation with his grandfather.

Upon our arrival we are ushered in to the mayor, who seems quite anxious. It was not so much an explosion in the city as it was an attack by some unknown creature that destroyed a building and killed several people, including a few crows, one of which was the captain of the guard. He asks us to investigate as there have been two other attacks since and the citizens are scared and staying inside, not knowing the attacks seem to come from underground. Since the first one happened at the market we should start our investigation there. After several questions we know the bodies were torn apart by something very powerful, as were the buildings. The mayor grows more nervous as we talk, we need to act fast or he may completely fall apart and we could use him on our side.

As we are led to the site of the initial attack the crows talk about how much of a loss the death of the captain is. When we arrive at the market, which is empty of people except for some crows, we see the area has been roped off. They have recovered a few bodies from the building which Nathaniel and Sorscha move to examine. Olt starts examining the area looking for tracks that may be from a creature capable of this destruction, while I talked with a neighbor who might have seen something. He tells me the man who lived there bought the place a couple years ago, and had been doing a lot of renovations to the place. No one ever went inside except for some workers that would show up in the evening and leave in the morning.

The examination of the bodies reveal they have no blood in them, and the damage done to them was caused by something very powerful as one body was twisted around and another had it’s chest crushed in. We discover a symbol drawn in blood on a nearby building, a huge spiral that Nathaniel believes he recognizes as one of the old chaos gods. As some of the lighter people enter the remains of the building I wait outside in case it’s not stable. The inside is in total shambles, everything inside is destroyed including the furniture and a couple of walls. Sorscha follows a trail of black slime down a set of stairs, followed by me and everyone else.

The basement has 5 sarcophagus set along the walls and one knocked over and broken. The slime trail leads over to another set of stairs going down, the only other exit being a door across from the stairs as part of the basement looks to be caved in. The door is barred from the other side Herschel tells me, so I put my shoulder to it. The new room only has camping gear for seven and one door inside which Herschel again says is batted from the inside and voices can be heard coming through the door. The language is unknown so I say a prayer and Heironious grants me the power to temporarily understand them. There sounds like there is three of whatever they are, and they’re hiding from something. After trying to get them to come out, Olt starts trying to smash down the door with his weapon and I step in and put my foot to the door. The door goes down as my foot goes through the door. I immediately feel a sharp pain as a couple of daggers pierce my foot. We make short work of the creatures which turn out to be Dark Folk.

Sorscha had scouted out the staircase and leads us down a long descent. It opens into a cavern where the slime trail looks to have started from. A portion of the room is covered in a pool of slime with a body floating in it next to three dead looking trees that overlook an altar that permeates evil. As we approach the trees a figure can be seen lurking just behind the altar. It tosses out a portion of a person that it was apparently chewing on. As I get closer the ghoul leaps upon the altar but before it can attack Nathaniel freezes it with a spell and everybody teams up to finish it off. After we finish a search of the cavern we find a book that will need closer inspection,and supplies that would indicate they’ve been doing whatever they’ve been doing for a while. When we return to the surface we inform the crows of what we found and they set up a guard until we can figure out what to do. The mayor should be a little relieved we discovered the source of the disturbance though we have yet to find the creature that caused it. Maybe the book will have some answers…

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Rice?
Journal of Mianissa
At long last, I had arrived at Angler’s Cove. Unfortunately, it was raining. Hard. I approached the city gates and prepared to state my case again. Catfolk were not well known in this area; we roamed the grasslands but seldom ventured towards human settlements. Human’s had an attitude of dominance towards my kind, as if Catfolk could be dominated. I had to be wary until I learned the attitudes of the locals that I met. The humans that I had come across had been more curious than anything and it turned out that my father’s prejudices had not been realized. I was hoping that this trade city would also be welcoming.

The guards spotted me in the rain and I did my best to look pitiful. People are suckers for big eyes and wet fur.

Then I went blind.

When my vision returned, there was a whole group of people standing near the gate that hadn’t been there before. At their feet, burned into the grass, was a strange pattern. It was nothing I recognized. The rain soaked into their previously dry clothes and they did not seem alarmed. I realized that I was also not where I had been. I was ten feet further from the gate, crouched and hissing. Through the rain, no one could hear my catlike vocalizations, thank goodness. I was trying to be an adventurer, not a scared kitten, but I had been so startled that I had let my reflexes take over. I quickly stood up and looked them over. They were a mixed group, but they all looked tough. One guy had a bow that was taller than him. Another had a familiar on his shoulder that looked like a small dragon. It was hard to tell exactly what they looked like, as they were bundled up against the rain, but I felt fairly sure that I had never seen them before.

The guards let us through the gate and I was able to tag along with the group. One of them offered me a choice of rice or fish. It was clear that he had never had any contact with Catfolk, or even cats. Obviously, I chose the fish. They took off in the direction of the nearest pub. I knew that I liked this crew.

The Fishhead Pub offered a selection of beverages. Since I had just met this group, I decided to keep my wits about me and settled for a mild house ale. Some of them were ordering some strong drinks, but I didn’t want to let my guard down just yet. The owner of the bar came over and was talking about something with the dwarf. He seemed to take a shine to me, and I was able to negotiate free room and board for myself. I also got a few rounds of ale on the house. Well, more than a few. I remember making kitten eyes at the proprietor and then waking up in a private room to the sound of pounding on my door.

Apparently, I had gotten along very well with my new friends and, in a drunken show of camaraderie, had insisted that they take me with them to The Boil to join them on their next adventure. I had never heard of the place, but it made me think of the giant fish boils that my clan used to have in celebration of Purrrrrrim. I could almost taste the boiled salmon, crab, and shellfish. The Boil sounded warm and comforting.

I should have asked more questions.

We secured passage on a small boat that would take us across a narrow stretch of sea. The rain and wind grew stronger as we set out from the shore of Angler’s Cove. I hate being wet and cold. We were tossed on the waves and it seemed that all of nature was conspiring to warn us away from going to The Boil. I peered out from underneath my cloak, despite the rain, in order to catch a glimpse of the site of my next adventure.

The smell hit me first.

It was as if every putrid thing in the world had slumped their way to one spot to fester among their noxious kindred. In the face of such a stench, rotten eggs and smegma slunk away in shame; last year’s garbage, after lounging around in a hot swamp, politely excused itself. Excrement from a variety of sources conspired to birth new, cruel ways to assault the senses. I spotted a corpse floating upside down in the muck as we docked. It had probably been thrown in as an air freshener.

“Poor dear,” said the one named Sorscha, “You will never get that stench out of your fur.”

I was seriously considering how I would look bald. At least everyone else reeked too. And anyone else who was here, or had ever visited here, would sympathize. I wondered about the people who would call this region home. A shudder went through me and I decided that I didn’t really want to know; I remembered my father’s warning about curiosity and cats.

We made our way through the torrential downpour to a place called The Mucky Duck. Once I found out where we were going, I ran ahead to get out of the rain. Human’s move so slowly. And don’t even get me started on dwarfs. I wasn’t sure if the stench of the city was abating or if my sense of smell had flown down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. Either way the air seemed to be improving. Once we got to The Mucky Duck, I was grateful to duck inside and dry myself off. The group was talking about going to some event that was supposed to help them further their political goals or something. I resolved to accompany them wherever they were headed, as long as it was inside somewhere. For the moment, I comforted myself with a round of house ale and some sort of fish gloop that they were serving. At least it was hot fish gloop.

As we were talking, a group of official looking people in uniforms swept in off the street. They shook their coats and announced that they were looking for adventurers. My heart soared! At last, a chance to join a cause and experience the thrill of the hunt. My new friends volunteered right away, as I had suspected they would. There had been some trouble in the city with buildings exploding unexpectedly. Some local police had lost their lives in the confusion. I was nervous and excited to find out the cause of the catastrophe. It looked like my dreams of adventuring indoors were not to be realized. I resigned myself to wet fur and shivers, hoping that maybe our chase would lead us underground.

I ordered another round of ale for myself and smiled.
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The Past, the Present, and the Dead
Journal entry by Ser Seifer

The days at the White Spire seemed to linger. In reality it had only been a couple days, but in my head it felt as though I had been there for months.

This “Master of the Spire” has me intrigued and cautious at the same time. The more I learn, the more I am wary of the magics and mysteries of this godless land. The drow captive was my newest lead to learn about these artifacts and the magical points of the Wildlands. I knew she had answers, but would she tell me, a surface elf? She was not at all like Sorscha. She was full of anger and malice that I could tangibly feel. Perhaps the “Master” of this spire could help me in the answers I seek.

The time I had spent with “the Master” was full of insight and also of despair. He talked of the fall of his empire and how he was prepared for it. It was soon after that conversation that I began having the dreams. Dreams of my past. Dreams of my memories that I had never talked about. Dreams of the dead. These dreams consumed me. It was as if I was actually reliving my memories for the first time. The fall of Brunswick and all the destruction and death that came with it.

- (100 years ago, the Throne room of Astera, the Royal Compound in the City of Brunswick, capital of the Kingdom of Brunswick) –

Magistar Terojin Nightstar stood before Queen Elandra. The Mages had of late been on their own agenda, causing disruption in the courts over issues that hindered or hurt our kingdom’s relations with the neighboring countries. They had been wasting resources and misusing the Queen’s name in trying to locate an artifact that was lost millennia ago. They claimed it was all in the name of strengthening the kingdom and furthering our citizens lives. I stood down the line from the throne. I was back in my Kingsguard (now Queensguard) ceremonial armor. I could feel it; the weight, the metal, all of it. This was no ordinary dream.

Though we numbered 100 strong, the Queensguard were seperated into 4 companies, numbering 25 each. Each company was lead by a knight-captain, except for the 1st company. The 1st company were the elite Queensguard, lead by knight-commander Mareck Sollend. I had only worked my way into the 2nd company in my 50 years as Queensguard. Knight-Captain Throndrak Nilus was head of the 2nd company. He was a man known to be close with the Mages and was the only Queensguard to wear and wield 2 swords, both too cumbersome for any normal soldier to wield in one hand easily. There he stood, next to the Queen, as Nightstar spoke his silver tongued words.

Though the words were muddled in my memory, I heard them as clear as day in the dream. “My Queen,” as he bowed with a smirk on his face and distractions on his tongue, " we humbly ask that you review these accusations. We at the Conclave only want what is best for Brunswick, and we feel as though your decrees limiting the Mage Conclave are only inhibiting our progress."

Recently, Queen Elandra had decreed that the Conclave must only act with council approval and thus, only do as much as the Queen’s council approved. This, of course, caused aggravation between the Queen and the Conclave.

As the dream continued, I was next in the barracks, a few days after the meeting with Nightstar. Throndrak was addressing the 2nd company. He spoke of a recent event where mages were sent on “expeditions” with Queensguard into the frontier lands known as “The Aegis lands”. The Aegis lands are the area separating the Small Kingdoms from the barbarian lands to the North and East. Normally, no one ventures into those lands on expeditions because the indigenous wildlife is aggressive and tainted. How they were tainted, no one knows.

The Queensguard are not an expeditionary force at all, but can accompany an individual of high standing with the council. Usually the 3rd and 4th companies are used in this manor, but this time it was only the 1st company. This was highly unusual but not the most disturbing thing about the briefing. Throndrak went on to state that there were casualties involved and that members of the 2nd would fill the ranks.

Weeks went by and these events continued. Weeks turned to months. Months turned into years. Members of the 2nd kept filling the ranks of those lost from the 1st, but it seemed only select members were chosen and not the highest in the ranks. The same went for those filling the ranks of the 2nd. This troubled Knight-Commander Mareck. He ordered an investigation into the expedition casualties and to the way Queensguard were picked to fill ranks. The investigation was being conducted by the Queen’s intelligence wing of the council.

Which lead to the events three years ago, in the year of our Queen 389. A lifetime ago.

Weeks of investigation and member interviews revealed disturbing news, but I would not hear it for years to come. Almost as soon as the investigation got underway, things took a drastic change for the worse. The conclave called for a meeting with the Queen and the council. 2nd company was on duty, so we were in the throne room before anyone else arrived. The Mages arrived with Nightstar in the lead. Surprisingly, the 1st company was accompanying them but the Knight-Commander was not with them. Knight-Captain Throndrak seemed unfazed by the sight of the 1st company with the mages, but I could feel the tension and confusion in my fellow Queensguard.

Magister Nightstar spoke first, and what came next will forever be burned into my memory. “Queen Elandra, on behalf of the Mage’s Conclave, I am here to declare that we are no longer operating under your authority. From this day forward, Brunswick’s Conclave of mages will be its own entity, and we do not support the current course this regime takes.”

My fellow knights gripped tighter to their ceremonial glaives. The Knight’s glaive was the weapon of choice for the Queensguard. The knights of the 1st company did not have their glaives with them, but swords and weapons were drawn upon entering the room. Queen Elandra simply stared at the Magister as he turned after speaking and left the throne room, taking the 1st company with him.

The next few weeks would be the most painful and hardest times of my life. The day after the Conclave declared secession from the Queen, events would happen that would change Brunswick forever. That evening the council was in session to discuss the mages and what was to be done. Sadly, those members never left that chamber. The Mages Conclave declared open revolt that night. They waited for the council to gather and in extravagant manner, destroyed the council chamber with magic. The explosion could be heard throughout the city.
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Those Queensguard not already on duty gathered equipment and set out into the city to investigate and quell the threat. We were met with what can only be described as beings not of this plane. Beings summoned by mages to keep us distracted from our goal. Sensing something far more sinister at work, I fought my way to the castle. Monsters, mages, and extra-planar beings all fell as my rage was unleashed. At last, I made it to the castle. After fighting my way through the gates, I was met with little resistance. What I was met with was far worse. Bodies. Bodies of my fellow Queens guard. Members of the 2nd and some of the 1st company lay broken and dismembered in the halls.

As I approached the throne room, my body was overwhelmed by fear and despair. I was alone, outnumbered, and out matched. The next few seconds will stay with me as nightmares forever. Standing in the hallway before the throne room, I saw it all. My Queen, my charge, my lady, was on her knees surrounded by Nightstar, Knight-Captain Throndrak, members of the 1st company (in newly fashioned red uniforms with black masks), along with mages from the Conclave. Nightstar was yelling at my Queen, demanding her surrender and, if not, her death. Her next action set my mind on it’s current course. She was so stoic, so composed, true royalty. She just replied, “Honor and truth do not surrender to the likes of evil and corruption.” With a simple node of his head, Nightstar signaled to Throndrak to do the deed. The man who was my leader, my idol, the man whose prowess with the blade I envied, with a single swing of his blade ended the life of my Queen.

I stood frozen with fear and disgust. My body could not, would not move. I was disappointed in myself. I, Ser Seifer Garrow was too scared to move and had failed in my vows to protect the Queen. After Throndrak killed Queen Elandra, he turned to face the side of the throne room that was hidden from my sight. Nightstar addressed what I could only assume were captives of the Queensguard. He gave them an ultimatum: Join him, or die like Elandra. He stated that the Queensguard were hereby dissolved, and those who did not join would be exiles or stand to be executed. Already a disappointment, I fled. I left my home, my belongings, my family inheritance, and fled the city.

In the middle of the night, I traveled by foot to the next town of Solara. There I would complete my exile and leave my country behind. With what little coin I had on me, I bought plain traveling clothes. I buried my Queensguard armor in a chest on the outskirts of the city, keeping my sword, and vowing to use it to end the life of Nightstar. I then purchased passage to the border. So began my story of exile.

After I reached the border, I sold myself as a guard for caravans going North. Months passed doing this type of work. One day a courier gave me a letter that would spark light back into my soul and start me on the next chapter of my story. The letter was from Knight-Commander Mareck. He too, had fled the capital and was living on the border of Brunswick, waiting for the day to strike back at Terojin Nightstar and his regime of evil. The letter told me of a man who wandered the border of Brunswick, slaying mages looking to enter into the country to join the Conclave.

I found the man. Slayer Xon is all he allowed me to call him. I spent weeks with him learning his ways and his technique to killing mages. We traveled the border for months, killing mages and escorting caravans. Not once did I hear from Knight-Commander Mareck after the initial letter. During my time with Xon, he told me of a land with countless legends of mage warriors and artifacts used against magic. I knew this was were I was supposed to go. Not wasting any time, I gathered my things and with only a direction and few caravans traveling to the area, I set off.

All of these memories came in a series of dreams, and not all at once. The last dream I remembered was that of my first few days in the Wildlands. The rain and wind felt fresh on my face as if it just happened yesterday; finding a trail of bodies and following them to a ruined city. From there my story began with The Watchmen.

Waking from that most recent dream, I was soaked with sweat, or perhaps it was the rain from my dream. All I know is that once I awoke, I heard a voice that echoed in my head, " Well, well, now, Isn’t that interesting?"

View
A New Spire. An Old Master.
Sorscha

“What do mean that he’s not here? He just teleported back up here, where did he go?”

“I mean, he’s not here. He hasn’t come back since the two of you dropped into that abyss!”

Nathaniel was nowhere to be found. Caleb had Kroenen’s men spread out and start searching for him, leaving a few of them to keep watch on the ledge. Caleb himself began searching the half-collapsed levels of the keep. Unable to use my cloak’s magic again so soon, I shadow stepped out to the central river to scan the waters and the boats moored there. I found nothing. Deciding that it would be better to regroup and collectively decide the next step, I returned the broken hall in the keep. Caleb was already there and the bowmen began trickling back in.

It had been something close to half of an hour at that point. I told Caleb that we needed to go interrupt the meeting between Exelar and Kroenen, then spun on my heel to do just that. Before I could reach doorway, there was a thump of expanding air pressure and an electric smell in the air that I’d come to associate with arcane teleportation. Turning around, I saw Nathaniel standing there, next to Caleb, with the small distortions of his spell fading into the still-dark morning air.

For a brief moment, I thought that Caleb might actually hit him. Perhaps I was projecting my own emotions. He did yell though, demanding to know where the hell Nathaniel had been and what he thought he was doing by deciding to just disappear like that. I walked back toward the two of them, but stopped far enough to let it remain primarily a conversation between them for the moment. My concern came when Nathaniel said that the white tower was, in fact, one of the arcane spires.

An Unexpected Meeting

This fact is apparently the reason for Nathaniel’s “disappearance.” When we were at the bottom of the chasm and I told him to get out, he called on his connection with the spire to return to it. Unaware that the white tower here in the Cascades was a spire, his call was generic enough that he was pulled into the spire here, instead of the one back at Temple Rise. Pulled into an empty room high in the White Spire, he had to work a way back out. This accounted for the time that he was away and also gave him the information that he needed to confirm that it was indeed one of the additional arcane spires that had been mentioned.

Of course, this complicates things even further for us. I, for one, was expecting us to leave the Cascades in the hands of Kroenen’s faction and to return to the Rise. Now, even though Kroenen’s men are ostensibly allies, there’s no way that we can leave a spire undefended, or unmastered. We’d need to leave a contingent here as well as figure out a way to identify and persuade someone that could become master of this new edifice. Which in turn would split our forces further, leave us spread thinner, and so on. And those are just the mundane concerns, let alone the mystical consequences of this additional discovery.

Exelar, Kroenen, and the others had emerged from their meeting by this point. Perhaps it was a coincidence of timing, perhaps they were drawn by the commotion. I quickly brought them up to speed about the state of the rift, as well as the new information about the tower-now-spire. Kroenen did not seem entirely surprised by this information, but nodded along with what I said. He tilted his head toward Exelar and said simply that this would require more discussion.

Agreements and arrangements had been largely worked out while Nathaniel and I were busy avoiding poison mists and being chased by dragons. For most of us, it was time to gear up and leave the Cascades. Olt had gathered the remaining items from the dwarven envoy. Despite his earlier reticence, after researching the papers, he determined that they had indeed made agreements that would assist Trask in betrayal of other dwarven clans and customs. Honor satisfied, he provided the items that they had for the use of the Watchmen. He had also written up a document to inform his great grandfather of what had happened with them. After speaking with Exelar, he was not expecting to return to the Rise directly and intended that Exelar would take the information back to his clan for him. That taken care of, we boarded the Ironclad ship again and returned to the White Spire to make the final preparations.

Arriving back at the Spire, it was quite the contrast to the keep. It seemed that the majority of people left in the city were in the courtyard or its environs, moving prisoners, stacking supplies, and generally milling about. Consulting with Exelar on the trip here, I learned the personnel arrangements that he came to with Kroenen. The Ironclad were now going to use the Cascades as a staging point. It made sense, there was more room and more docking areas than the Rise and they would still be close enough to assist with the airship, if needed. Shepard would be staying with them. Both to serve as a Watchmen presence, but also because of his connection to this place. It was clear that he did not want to leave so soon after being able to return.

Exelar would be returning to the Rise and was taking Trask with him. I’m not sure of his plans, but I couldn’t trust him to better hands. He was also going to be taking Olt’s letter to his clan for him. I’m not sure when he planned on joining back up with the rest of us. Nathaniel said that he also intended to return to the Rise. Although with the powers of the Spire now more fully under his control, he was likely going to be moving around quite a bit.

Finally, most of the rest of our group, myself included, were headed for Carrion Hill. Our goal there would be twofold. First, following Hershel’s plan, we’d be attending a political soiree in an attempt to suss out the Bowmen sympathizers among the political leaders of the Boil. Boris Cotton will be accompanying us since he is something of an expert the politics of that otyugh of a city, but also because he’s also the person that we plan on setting in the seat that we kick the sympathizer out of. And here I had hoped to leave this kind of scheming behind me in the oloth. But if we’re going to do it, we’d better win.

Landing in the courtyard, I headed toward the White Spire. Having been through it once unaware of its nature, I wasn’t eager to return. However, also due its nature, it was important to ensure that it remained clear now that we were aware of it. On my way up to the Spire, I had an unexpected encounter with Meiko Sama.

I heard someone approaching from my side and when I turned, I saw that the severe warrior was headed my way, a bundle in her arms. With no idea what to expect, I stopped walking and waited. As she came up to me, I saw her shoot the briefest glance back toward Boris. It was quick enough that I think very few would have noticed it. It humanized her in a way that I believe she wouldn’t care for, so I ignored it. She said that after fighting the Trask loyalists, they found something that they thought I could make use of; an appreciation for our group’s role in the battle. So saying, she curtly inclined her head, turned on her heel, and started back toward where Cotton stood. Slightly stunned by the exchange, I barely managed to say that, having met her briefly, she should be proud of the daughter that she raised. A smile of regret flew briefly across her face as she said that yes, Boris had, and then she was away.

Unwrapping the bundle I’d been given, it turned out to be a book. More accurately, it was a tome, large and expertly bound. I was intrigued when I saw the designs on the cover. Inlaid in a silvery-gold metal, it resembled some of the celestial geometry designs that I’d seen while working with the Heironean temple in Qataban. Opening the book confirmed my hypothesis. At a glance, it seemed to describe not only rituals, but physical and mental exercises of an ascetic nature. Exelar had previously mentioned that there was a divine order of monks in the service of Heironeous. Writings like these could have been foundational to orders such as those. When I had more time, I intended to go through it carefully. But that time wasn’t now. I secured the book at my side and turned back to the Spire.

Into the Tower

This new spire was unfamiliar. Given the dangers that arose with “our” spire back at the Rise, I was treating it as dangerous ground. A quick reconnoiter around the outside and through the ground floor hall revealed no one lingering. All looked to be in order. As I turned to walk out the doorway, a glimmer of light caught my eye. I sighed quietly and winced before turning around to investigate. Nothing about this indicated good tidings.

Turning around, I scanned the room for the source of the light. No torches or magical lighting was active, but then I spotted it. It was above a doorway across the hall. Half-obscured by a wall-climbing vine of some sort was what looked to be a glyph or design inlaid on the pale stone of the room. As I stared, trying to determine its details, it pulsed with a white light. I turned on my heel and was out of the tower in a blink.

Emerging into the overcast, I scanned the courtyard for Nathaniel. I was still unsure about he was managing the power that had been thrust upon him, but I had no options for now. Seeing him near the airship, pouring over what I assumed to be a spellbook, I called his name and beckoned when he looked up. As Nathaniel approached the tower, I saw Seifer break off a conversation that he was having with one of the Ironclad and head in our direction, followed by Olt. It seems like I’m not the only one with misgivings about this new Spire. I briefed the wizard quickly about what I’d seen. He was immediately intrigued and headed directly into the tower hall. I’d made sure that Seifer heard what I had to say to Nathaniel and he continued past me into the tower, a concerned look on his face and a hand on his icy magical blade. We were of a mind on this. I followed as well, though I stopped at the heavy wooden doorway leading into the tower.

Nathaniel was walking around the room, alternately murmuring to himself or his familiar and casting some spells while looking around the room. He seemed to get excited as he discovered several more inlaid sigils circling the hall at the same height as the first. The small dragon even flew up to investigate them. He said that the sigils represented all of the arcane Spires that were present in the basin, five in total. But there was also a sixth mark, that was no tower but indicated something inextricably linked with them. He was walking toward that sixth sign when Seifer walked into the hall. This is when things went xa’huu.

As soon as Seifer was through the doorway, I thought that I saw a glimmer or a sheen along the hilt of the Thyatian sword he called Dark Sister. It was gone in a blink and then a voice boomed from the rafters of the hall. It said that it sensed an arrival or a return of someone…I would have had a clearer memory, but at the same moment, I felt a shudder in the tower that I was leaning against. As Seifer drew a blade and Nathaniel spun around, staff held out like a shield against an unseen enemy, a stone slab was descending over the door in front of me. It was already halfway down and I could tell that neither of the two inside would be able to make it out in time. I threw a glance back to the courtyard. A few people had noticed the sound and were either looking or walking in its direction. No one would make it in time. I was the only one capable, so the obligation was mine. Decision made, I grabbed the edge of the doorway overhang and swung myself under the barricade moments before it locked into place. Now there were four of us locked in here.

Down the Morlock Hole

There was some sort of magical lighting active in the hall, now. Which was good because it meant that the wizard wouldn’t be bumping into things or burning his magical reserves to be able to see. Quickly consulting the others, I got confirmation that whoever or whatever the voice was, it said that it sensed the approach or the return of one of the royal line. I had a slightly difficult time understanding the dialect that the voice was using. Nathaniel mentioned that it was an older version of the language used locally in the Ruin. Apparently he’d been studying it, back at the Rise. I mentioned what I saw with the sword that Seifer bore. Apparently it was indeed a weapon of the royal family that ruled this place, centuries before the cataclysm turned it into what it was now. Our musings were interrupted by the booming voice, again.

Actually, it wasn’t the same voice. This one sounded more…genuine, as if it were made by an actual person and not a spell. It made observations about us, my drow heritage, Nathaniel’s magical abilities, and the fact that Seifer was bearing a royal weapon but was not, in fact, a royal himself. The doorway that led to central stair of the tower swung open and were invited to come up and meet whomever this voice belonged to. None of us was particularly inclined to do so, but we had no other at this point, aside from sitting down in the hall like spoiled dalharen. Bracing for what may come our way, went through to the stairs.

Once we had, the voice returned. It said that we should ascend the stairs back up to the blank landing near the top. I remembered the place from my trip down off the roof after the battle with the lycanthropes. It was a section that seemed to take up what would have normally been two floors, but only presented blank walls where entryways might otherwise be. And it was indeed, nearly at the top of the tower. As if in answer to my thoughts, the central well blazed with a column of light and in the center coalesced a misty platform. It was a spell I’d seen before. It seemed almost ethereal, but could bear a significant amount of weight. The unknown voice directed us toward it as it would be a faster way to the top. Seifer took one look at it and immediately went to the stairs to begin his climb, with Olt following after. Still unsure of our situation, I opted to join him. Nathaniel looked slightly exasperated and went to stand on the magical platform. It began to ascend quickly. With a nod, he said that he’d “see us up there” as he rose past our position on the stairs. Seifer and I traded glances and continued upward.

After a significant climb, we arrived at the location. Nathaniel was waiting for us, looking rather bored, but stopped leaning against the wall as he saw us. I recognized the location from our sweep through the tower after battling the lycanthropes. It was an odd section that seemed as though it would have help several floors worth of rooms, but held no doorways or other features. Just as Olt moved up to examine the stone wall in front of us, the disembodied voice spoke again. Whoever was behind it had the ability to see us, or track our movement.

It guided us up a set of invisible steps that seemed to be set against the wall face. After a switchback, they stopped and the the outline of a door began to trace on the wall, in a slightly sparking light. The wall faded back to a door, which opened into a gently-lit room. We cautiously walked, with Seifer nudging past Nathaniel, bearing him an incredulous glance as he did so. The room was largely bare, but there was an odd feeling created by crossing the threshold. I couldn’t identify it, but I could tell that the others felt it, as well. Seifer’s stance stiffened as his gaze swept the room, Nathaniel looked vaguely amused, and the dour dwarf simply sneezed.

Currents in the air indicated a path through the room to another door. As it opened, on it’s own again, I had to squint against the bright sunlight that poured out. We walked through into what seemed another world. It was like the lands around the Ruin, heavily wooded and full of wildlife, except that it was sunny and held a light warmth. We walked onto a path that wound its way through the trees ahead. All of us were caught off guard, though it feels like a poor excuse for not reacting quick enough as I heard the door swing shut behind us. As I turned, I saw that it was gone. We had no choice but to continue forward.

As we rounded a bend, the trees opened up and the voice offered us food and refreshment. At that moment, fae-like beings emerged from the woods, holding platters of food and various jugs and decanters. I declined the proffered items, suspicious of not just our surroundings, but of how offerings of gifts and food operate with ture denizens of the fae. I didn’t see how the others responded, as my gaze fell to the distance and the smaller simulacra of the tower that we were presumably still in. It was a perfect reproduction, if appearing smaller in stature, and stood in the distance at the end of the trail. I gestured to the others as I started toward the tower. Seifer’s face hardened as he slung up shield. His feelings on magic and its wielders had been made clear to us all, but for the first time I wondered what was behind them. Clearly it was not a good story.

The walk to the tower took less time that it should have. Wherever we were, I suspected that it was producing any number of effects. Arriving at the door, I decided not wait for the voice, and reached to open it. It swung without a sound and we walked into a hall that, again, was remarkably like that of the Spire back in the Cascades. However, this time, in the middle of the hall, was a man dressed in fine robes. I picked out spidery runes woven into several hems and suspected that he was sufficiently protected from any aggression that we might present.

Even with my limited exposure to the languages of the surface world, the words that he spoke were a kind I’d never heard. When he stopped, he looked at us expectantly. We glanced at one another in the fashion of the stupefied and turned back to the man. I gave a slight shrug and he furrowed his brow. He spoke something else that sounded different to the ear, but still held no meaning. He was clearly getting frustrated when Olt spoke up in his strangely phrased dwarven dialect. That seemed to work, as the unknown man sparked with recognition and began to respond in kind. He gestured, and we began to follow him as Olt served the role of translator.

His name was Berlineous and he claimed to be the Master of the White Spire.

Master of the Spire

Walking a distance that should have been too far, given the size of the tower we were in, we arrived at a sitting room. We were again offered refreshments. I declined. Berlineous brought something out of a drawer in a small table as he sat down. He appeared to cast a charm and we were all able to understand one another. His accent was still quite heavy.

He again stated that he was the Master of the Spire. He also affirmed that we were still there, but we were currently in a magically separated dimension within it, thus the glade and the clearing and the smaller version of the tower. He said that he had been the Master in the days of the collapse of the Empire. His conclave had fought against the chaos priests that infected the society, to the highest levels it turned out. Despite the struggle, they had seen the end of things before any others. So they had taken steps to prepare for it. The Spires (apparently there were several more, corresponding to the runes in the hall of the proper White Spire) offered too much power to an occupying force with the abilities to access them, so steps were taken to secure each one.

In the case of the White Spire, it was effectively shut down. Stores were laid, doors and entrances were locked down. The physical structure of the tower could be entered, but everything of import was sealed off, magically. They had even put a cadre of warriors into an enchanted sleep, stored somewhere in the Spire. He called them Grey Guard, I think. Everything of import in the tower would be inaccessible to anyone that might try to take it by force. The entire thing would be a cache, waiting to be accessed when needed. He would have stayed that way, had Seifer not brought his Thyatian blade into the hall of the Spire. Apparently it was a weapon owned by the royal family of the time and triggered the magical recognition of the tower enough that it woke him and alerted him to our presence in the Spire.

At this point, he asked about the year. It took some cross-figuring back and forth with Nathaniel and Olt to sync ancient and modern calendars. Eventually they came around to telling him that it had been over a thousand years since he went to sleep. His face fell and went ashen as he sputtered a bit about it couldn’t have been that long. The others went over the current state of the valley with him. Nathaniel spoke about the restoration of the Scarlet Spire, after its unknown method of destruction, and that he was its new Master. Olt gave a brief of the history of his people, their exile by the dragon, and their retreat from the illness that swept the Rise. Seifer and I gave a short version of what had happened there since. Two things stuck out in that conversation. First, that he also mentioned a disease of some sort that had swept through Temple Rise, effectively wiping it out in the past. Second, that he expressed concern about the state of the other arcane spires, confirming that they existed.

It was then that I became aware of a question in the back of my mind. If it had been a millennia, how had the wizard survived? Magic or not, he was only human. He said that it was the magic that had sealed the tower away. In this dimension we were in, time slowed, while it passed more quickly outside. Doing some quick figuring, we could have been in here for days, already. I’d be surprised if Exelar and the others were laying siege to the tower. I explained the current situation in the Cascades to him and demanded that we leave this pocket realm before more time passed. The others’ eyes widened a bit and both Olt and Seifer nodded in agreement. Nathaniel, however, seemed as though he’d be content to stay. But this wasn’t the time for that.

It wasn’t hard to convince Master Berlineous. He wasn’t concerned about the potential threat on the tower, saying that it was more than capable of defending itself. But he preferred not to start off on the wrong foot with our people and Kroenen’s Bowmen. He also needed to start reaching out and acclimating to this new time. The Spire Master led us through a series of doors and corridors that opened up into the study where we first stepped through the door into the “vale” of the slow time tower. I’m not as distrusting of magi as Seifer is, but it’s things like this that remind me of the power that they can have access to; and of the trouble that it can lead to. I don’t see this wizard as an enemy, but I’m sure he has his own agenda, like most people. It warrants paying attention to.

Without waiting for formal farewells, I was quickly out of the room. I vaulted of the invisible stairs to the platform below and raced down the stairs. As soon as I reached the entry hall, I slowed down, eyeing the sigils embedded high in the marble walls. I reached the outer doors without incident and opened them slowly, not sure of what to expect. Several dozen heads turned toward me as I walked out. I wasn’t entirely wrong in my guess, it looked like a siege camp had set up on wide tower stairway. As Exelar made his way up, I noticed Kroenen was there, on the landing below. I didn’t relish the fact that the information I was about to provide was going throw their negotiations about the state of the Cascades into chaos. I suppose the silver side of things was that many of us wouldn’t be here for those talks, as we were soon to return to Carrion Hill.

View
Down to the Chasm. A Missing Wizard.
Sorscha

Back to the Keep
We quickly gathered our wounded along with the unconscious Teken’und Priestess. Nathaniel sweept the confiscated items into a sack; they can be analyzed later. I keep hold of the house insignia for now.

Back on the Ironclad airship, we speed back toward the ruined keep. We have more reason than ever to return quickly. Olt advises us that the items and information from the slain dwarven envoy remain in the hall where the battle was fought. Now, we must secure that position from any further sorties. The chasm gave me a bad feeling from the first time I saw it and now I regret to say that my intuition was correct; It may continue to be a problem. Exelar tends to Lazarus while we traveled, I assume partially as a distraction against being on the airship again. In a stroke of luck, the huntsmen has not been fatally poisoned. However, the multitude of bites that he took will render him a bit shaky until he can get a proper rest and let his system purge the venom.

The others seem largely well, also. Although Seifer seems even more agitated now that we have both an exorcised Trask and a drow highborn, both alive and in our custody. From his occasional quiet mutterings, I get the distinct impression that he would have preferred a simpler situation where he could have simply executed them on the field we didn’t need to keep them captive. I don’t entirely disagree with him. This is more challenging to work with, but also presents us with additional opportunities. I decide to keep that opinion to myself, for the moment.

As the ship docked next to the keep, I let Exelar know that I needed to speak to him urgently. Walking to an empty hallway, I brought out the house insignia from the raid leader. Explaining the insignia’s use in drow society, I translated the symbols and let him know that this was from House Teken’und; from Xar’eth’s house. That means that she was from the same house. Xar’eth had been fairly straight forward about being on the surface to gain power and return to avenge his defeated house. This could have been her purpose, or part of it, as well. It also has implications about where her raiding party came from, despite her house resources being scarce. He began to think this over and ask a question, when Kroenen came around a corner.

It was time, he said to discuss the future of the Cascades, his men, and the Watchmen. Of course this needed to happen, but the timing was inconvenient. As we three walked back through the ruin to the main hall, Exelar and Kroenen debated who would be needed in this conversation as well as what we needed to do in light of the drow raid.

Ultimately, Nathaniel, Caleb, and myself were left back to investigate the source of the raid. Kroenen had left a squad of his men, archers, to assist. We set them under Caleb’s command and lined them up to guard the cliff edge. As we parted from the others and moved to search the best path down into the chasm, a runner came up. After taking position at the precipice, one of them claimed that there was a dragon clinging to the cliffside, listening in on the activities in the keep.

Down the Walls
At almost the same time as the runner’s report, I heard something like the crunching of stone and Caleb cried out that the dragon was taking flight down into the rift. Not wanting to lose track of the beast, and relying on the cloak I obtained from Hershel, I burst into a run and leapt from the cliff into the chasm.

As I descended, I spotted the dragon. As they make their home in the long dark, it is familiar to me. It was a small one, rather, it was maelthra. No less a danger, but less difficult to manage than if it were older. As I lost altitude, the moonlight faded and my darksight took over. I took that moment to use the magic of the cloak and become a small bat.

The transformation is one that I am still not accustomed to. Newly acquired from Hershel, he had instructed me in the basics of it’s use, including the transformation ability. But when I asked him how he adjusted to the new form and senses of the bat, he simply shrugged and said, “You just do.” Having done it now, it’s as fair a description as you can give to someone that hasn’t. If you could imagine growing from a small child to a grown person, but in moments rather than years, and in this case in reverse, it would be a start. As my bones shrunk and twisted and as my skin tightened, the bat’s senses took over and I began to hear, rather than see, my surroundings.

I sensed the dragon, still in front of me, diving straight down. Then I heard a change. It was folding out its wings, slowing it’s descent. In an instant, it went horizontally straight into the far wall. I unfurled my own own wings to halt myself and fluttered around where it had disappeared. Quickly I discovered that there was a circular hole that went straight back into the rock. The dragon must have shifted forms when it dove in. Not wanting to stress the magic of the cloak, I returned to my normal shape and took up a perch, waiting for Nathaniel to arrive.

As I waited, sitting on the lip of a dragon den, I could see that I fairly close to the floor of the basin. Not far beneath my feet, a shifting mist obscured sight of the ground, though the thin shifting gasses would sometimes grant glimpses. What I could clearly see though, were the skeleton-like remains of ships that thrust above the mist line. With everything that had gone on in the city above, I’d forgotten that the entire ravine had been a full lake before the cataclysm that struck the old empire. The vista had a beauty of its own, one that I’d almost forgotten since emerging into the sunburned lands of the northern desert. My reverie was broken with Nathaniel’s appearance.

And Back Up
Floating down through the dark on threads of magic and wearing the face mask taken from the drow raid-leader, he resembled nothing quite so much as an awkward orbben bobbing on a silken thread. He glanced over and waved a greeting as he passed me – the mask must provide him with sight down here – and then descended into the fog, with only several soft swirls to marks his passing.

Nathaniel’s new familiar remained above the mist, performing slow circles. It’s a small species of dragon, perhaps two arm spans long and deep red, almost purple in color. I don’t know much about them, but one of the archmages at the sorcere had one. I’m unsure when he bound it. I feel that they took some amount of knowledge and power to summon, so perhaps it had something to do with the Spire back at the Rise. Though small, it wasn’t young, and seemed to have a breadth of knowledge about the basin ranges. It also enjoyed sassing Nathaniel, which I can appreciate.

Waiting for the wizard to reappear, I turned to inspect the mouth of the dragon’s lair in which I sat. It receded straight into the mountain from the cliff face. It wasn’t as wide as my arms spread out. Touching the walls, they were smooth, but bumpy or bubbly, as if the stone had melted like wax. This made sense if this was indeed a deepfall dragon. The famous destructive breath of all dragons was a corrosive gas in the deep ones. Used in close, it could have carved out this tunnel by dissolving the very stone. This creature could be trouble if left to its own devices.

Putting thoughts of the serpent aside, I glanced out in time to see Nathaniel rocket up from the misty depths. His voice altered by the mask he wore, he quickly spilled out a description of what he had found. In addition to the hulks of rotting ships, he’d found bones of creatures large and small littering the chasm floor. He confirmed that the gases swirling below were indeed toxic. This was likely the reason that the lair in which I sat was positioned where it was. He’d also located a high concentration of humanoid skeletons. Apparently they were in a rough ‘v’ pattern with the narrow end originating in a fissure in the rock of the city side cliff. Searching the concentration of bones, he found a corroded piece of jewelry that he now handed over to see if I could recognize anything about it. Despite the regional differences in style and stamp, I know immediately what it was: an insignia of House Teken’und. The bodies were Xar’eth kinsmen, driven from the depths into the poison mists of the rift. This is what he was referring to when he said that his house had been driven from it’s position in his home city. They were driven up into death, here below the Cascades.

I told him what it was and what I suspected that its presence meant, when I heard movement coming from behind me. I shoved the insignia in a pocket, looked to Nathaniel, and said, “Fly. Now!”

In only moments, the sound from the tunnel had increased in volume. What was a whisper was now a rush wind pushed in front of an oncoming wyrm. Nathaniel had begun to rise upward. I activated my cloak’s own flying magic and pushed up off of the tunnel’s edge. As I caught up to the frazzled spellcaster, I again urged him to hurry up, that the dragon was on its way. For a moment, he looked as though he were flipping through a book in his head, and then he stopped to look at me, saying “I could just teleport out of here…”

“Do it!” I yelled and willed the cloak to carry me back up to the surface as rapidly as it could. Glancing back down, I saw Nathaniel disappear in a clap of collapsing air just as the dragon burst forth from its burrow. It’s form shifting as it burst out, it stretched it wings, let out an echoing bellow, and surged upward toward me.

I bolted up, urging the cloak even more, pushing it to the limits of the magic. For a short moment, I imagined that I felt the toes of my boots brush off of scaly hide as I surged upward. Hearing its deep intake of breath, I anticipated what was coming. I spun and dropped to the side as it the dragon exhaled a cloud of acidic vapors, enveloping the space I occupied only moments before.

I burst through the remaining trails of the dispersing cloud and soared toward the keep and the cadre of archers that sat upon its edge. The entire way up, I dodged and zagged to avoid the snapping maw of the great beat that I could hear just beneath my feet. Though it felt as though this continued for indeterminably, it took less than minute to see open sky and the broken edges of the precipice keep come into view. As the lip of the chasm came closer, I heard something buzz past me, down and to my side. It was an arrow. They were beginning to rain down from above. I could hear Caleb barking commands to the men that Kroenen had left above.

Not slowing down, I continued to barrel upwards. In a flash, I broke past the edge of the ground’s level and shot into the air above the keep. Taking a chance, I slowed and turned back in time to see the dragon just breach the level of the keep and then dive back down to the depths to avoid the volleys of the bowmen. Spotting Caleb, I dropped down near him and caught my breath. He asked if I was alright and checked that I wasn’t clipped by any arrows. I nodded that I was fine and then he started looking around for something.

Not finding it, he asked, “Where’s Nathaniel?”

My eyes widened as I asked, “Wait, you mean he’s not here?”

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