The World of DaNar

Untitled
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

A voice droned, insistent but unintelligible, as the slack-jawed throng shuffled about, wide-eyed and unresponsive, through a featureless grey landscape. Thick fog hung over the ground, emphasizing the light that shone beyond the mindless mass, toward the source of the voice. I glanced about for the best path through the crowd, and started forward. The voice grew louder, projecting general commands to the mob while simultaneously speaking directly to me. It seemed to speak in many tongues as it yelled its unintelligible whisper, invading my mind and placing horrible thoughts and grotesque images there. A hand brushed my shoulder, and I turned to find the grey field empty but for the thick fog which hung knee-high on the ground, roiling as though something were pushing its way through just below the cover of its enveloping mist.

I turned to run, and was met with the faces of my allies, wide-eyed with mouths hanging slack, shuffling toward me. Nathaniel’s cadre was at the fore, their pace being the quickest among the shambling troop. As Nathaniel came forward a shiny, black tentacle snaked its way in and out of his mouth, reaching forward and curling back, trying to grab anything in its path. I noticed similar tentacles protruding from the ears of his companions, Caleb and Wulfgar. Behind them were Sir Seifer, Captain Shepherd, and Grundach, moving along with refugees and others from Temple Rise, screaming silently. A faceless shadow moved among them, advancing toward my position slightly faster than they but not so quick as Nathaniel’s forward group.

Toward the back stood Sorscha and Exilar, their faces looking determined as they screamed, gesturing to the crowd, seemingly trying to get the mob to turn back. The fog caught Exilar’s words and muffled them so that when they came to me they sounded as if they had traveled across a great distance: “_…FOR LAW! FOR ORDER! FOR THE SURVIVAL OF ALL DANAR!_”. Then Exilar raised his sword and turned as a black shadow emerged behind him, eyes like pinpoints of red light glaring forward. The figure rose into the sky as black tentacles in the shape of a demon’s head writhed out among the crowd, enveloping Sorscha and Exilar, and pushing the rest forward. A mass of tentacles pushed up from the ground in front of me, and the shadow-figure I had seen moving among the Risers appeared. The blackness began running off from the figure’s head, draining away like a mass of thick ink, and I stood face-to-face with myself, mouth hanging slack with a wide-eyed, vacant stare. My shadow-self opened its mouth even further, bones cracking as its jaw came unhinged, skin tearing open at the corners of its mouth as a mass of shadow erupted out toward me and enveloped me in darkness.

I woke to a blood-curdling scream, and jumped up with a start, short-sword in hand. Sir Seifer Garrow stood at the other end of the ruined entrance hall of the castle, hand on Black Ice’s hilt and an appraising look on his face. I glanced around and saw that many of the Ironclad were assessing me in the same way, though their weapons were fully drawn, and a few advanced toward my position several paces. Their commander, who was standing half-facing Seifer, nodded his head questioningly toward my position, raising one eyebrow as he looked at the elf. I stood in place, sweating, but relaxed my stance a bit and held my sword down at my side. The elf-knight looked back at the commander, shook his head, and took his hand off his sword. The commander followed suit and sheathed his own; as he did so I heard the scrape of steel against scabbard simultaneously from half a dozen positions within the room. I took one more glance around the room, put away my own blade, and hurried, red-faced, to take up a watch position in the ruined courtyard.

It wasn’t long before I saw it. A mass of twenty eyes, glistening in the dark of the swamp, not more than 50 paces from my position. The creature stared directly at me, and my mind was assaulted with unintelligible, black whispers. I knew that it would come regardless of any precautions that I might take, so I took none and fired three shots into the darkness toward it as I shouted a warning to those within the castle ruins. The shots hit home, causing it to stand to its full height, a good 12 feet off the ground. I moved up, turning invisible as firelight from somewhere outside of the courtyard began to illuminate the giant fiend. I fired two more shots which hit home, popping two of its eyes, causing masses of black spiders to pour forth. The mass crawled toward me, bundling up around my feet as the eighteen remaining milk-white eyes scanned my position and locked focus on me. I looked down to see my feet clearly outlined by a writhing carpet of spiders, and cursed under my breath.

Tentacles shot out at my position, half trying to pummel my body while the other half attempted to entangle my limbs. I shifted my position, and contorted my arm to get away from two of those that tried to grab me, but the third hit home and wrapped around my throat, and hauled me off of my feet. I coughed and gagged as I drew my short-sword in my right hand and slashed at the limb, trying to cut myself free. A bright rainbow of ghostly flame erupted over the beast’s skin, and I heard a familiar battle-cry come up from behind me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Sir Seifer, charging the abomination, using Black Ice to slash the tentacle that held me. As he did so, two tentacles lashed out and whipped at his unarmored chest, ripping off bits of flesh. A moment later, the beast seized the knight’s right arm, hauling him up toward its gaping maw as the elf grit his teeth to stifle a scream of pain.

The beast pummeled at me again, but I was able to dodge most of the blows. As it tried to wrap even more limbs around me I turned one aside with my sword-arm, and used the opportunity to slash the horrid thing in half. It immediately began to regenerate as another tentacle shot out and wrapped around my leg, and the one around my neck began to constrict, squeezing my larynx and cutting off my breath. Sir Seifer kicked his legs and pushed his shield up against the tentacle that held his arm, struggling to get free as he was brought closer to the abomination’s mouth.

Suddenly a bolt of lightning shot out from the entrance to the castle ruins, striking the tentacled beast’s body and discharging along its many limbs, sending a jolt of electricity through my body as I arched my back and my muscles spasmed. I glanced aside to see Sir Seifer unconscious, sparks arcing up through fine eleven hair which stood on-end, puffed out in every direction. The limb that I had just severed began to regrow at a faster pace, and the whispering voices emanating from the beast became intermixed with a low chuckle. I twisted my tentacle-constricted leg, shifting my weight to the side as I managed to slip my head out of the other limb’s grasp. I slashed at the beast and severed the tentacle which had been gripping my neck as I dropped to the ground. As I turned invisible and began to retreat back to a safe position, I thought better of it and rolled along the ground between myself and Sir Seifer, narrowly avoiding a few more swooping tentacles. I took a bottle of golden liquid from my belt, opened it, and poured it into the knight’s mouth before quickly turning back and tumbling away from the abomination, which sent several more great arms whipping out toward me. Seifer coughed as he revived, looking alert and ready for combat despite the fact that the abomination held his sword-arm immobilized. “What the HELL did you just pour down my throat you shifty sonofabitch?”

I looked back as a cloud of shadow erupted from the great beast’s back, and Sorscha emerged, crouched down on one knee, holding her balance as the thing writhed beneath her. From the courtyard, several white-blue arrows of force flew out and smashed against it. Caleb charged out of the ruins, shouting as he slashed down and severed another tentacle. The beast dangled Seifer above his mouth, and the elf’s muscles became taught, as if readying himself to attack. I moved back, further from the abomination’s reach, then turned invisible and moved slightly closer as I brought my longbow to bear, so that the beast would not know exactly from where I was firing. I used two of the magical arrows looted from the Bowman, Toby, and fired them in quick succession. The first tore into one of the large main eyes, freezing the eyeball solid before exploding in a thunderous roar, blowing apart the frozen eye along with chunks of the its face. Frozen spiders fell to the ground and shattered as the second shot sunk deep into the beast’s body, provoking a bellowing roar as the beast let go of Seifer’s arm and swallowed the elf-knight whole.

Sorscha began pummeling the abomination, sinking her fists into its tough hide as tentacles flailed impotently around her. The beast began to lurch and roar, apparently in pain, splashing about in the dark water of the swamp, as a frozen gash erupted from its body, following the path of Black Ice. A burst of bright, hot sunlight welled up over the courtyard wall, nearly singeing the half-drow as she ducked to the side, and Seifer climbed out of the opening in the abomination, yelling “And THAT’S why you don’t swallow a Knight of insert name here!”

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Waking Nightmares
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

swamp_ruins.jpg

予言 (Yogen; Foreboding)

After returning the girl to Cotton , we established a meeting time on the morrow, and bid him farewell. Some of my companions departed to seek the comfort of the “higher-class” establishment up the Hill, though I elected to stay at the Duck. Those who can put on airs while residing in this fetid pile of rubbish are obviously either mad or delusional, and more than a little deceptive; I prefer the honesty of a den of scoundrels.

Once the more distinguished part of our group departed, I set to drinking and gambling alongside Wulfgar and Caleb. Two flagons of Dragonsbreath deep, I decided to make a bet on an odd form of touken that pitted a yamainu against eight kyodai nezumi. The odds were stacked 3 to 1 against the yamainu, but he looked like he had a good fighting spirit, and the payoff if I won would be well worth the gamble, so I put 10 steel on the beast. After a long fight going back and forth between them, the battle came down to stand-off against the wolf, torn and bleeding in many places, and a similarly battle-worn rat, but the wolf finally prevailed. I retired to my room with my winnings.

In the night, I experienced Osoroshii akumu. In the dream all was grey, and there were people everywhere ambling through a thick fog. As they walked, an unintelligible voice spoke loudly, as if issuing commands to the mindless throng, though none seemed to particularly care or notice. I also had a sense that there was a great presence lurking somewhere within the fog (Or was it in the sky above me? Or the ground below?); a shape with many eyes and an open maw, the dimensions of which were so large that my mind could not comprehend them.

My dream-self turned toward the source of the garbled voice, and began to push its way through the crowd. The warbling nonsense words became louder and louder, until I could hear nothing else. The crowd turned and faced against me, stupefied faces hanging slack-jawed and wide-eyed, staring past me as they pressed in on my position.

The press of bodies began to envelop me, squeezing my chest so that I could not breathe. Their skin began to boil, as if thousands of tiny insects crawled beneath; then it ruptured in a spray of blood and pus. As everything grew dark, the last thing that I saw was millions of tiny eyes protruding like boils from their flesh. Many were moving slowly around, as if analyzing their surroundings; the majority were staring straight at me.

I woke, and resolved never to drink Dragonsbreath again. Heading downstairs, I sought out the barkeep, who spoke of troubling dreams that he had the night before. I took a breakfast of cooked roots and bread, but declined the offer of onions. Strong smells can prove deadly when your trade relies on remaining unnoticed. The innkeeper told me of his own akumu, which was disturbingly similar to my own, while I sipped a lukewarm glass of brown ale. Presently, the remainder of my companions arrived to make our appointed meeting with Boris Cotton.

合従連衡 (Gasshorengo; Alliance)

When Cotton arrived, he divulged the information that he knew about the structure of the Bowmen, and where certain of the captains’ loyalties are likely to lie. I pressed him about the nature of Vladimir Kroenen. Should we ally with him against the more unsavory forces within the Bowmen, Cotton insists that the Vilholman is a man of honor, and would keep to any agreement that we made. However, such an agreement certainly would not be made unless we are able to dramatically alter the power structure within the Bowen.

Cotton spoke of the primary leaders within the Bowmen who are loyal to Kroenen: Meiko Sama, Company Commander of the Falcon company; Marcus Crowley; Torkal Todd, also of Falcon company; and Talon Garvey, who belongs to Panther company. Further, there appear to be those within the higher ranks in the power structure who share mixed loyalties between the three primary leaders (Al’Bashir, Khan, andKroenen). He also told us that Aldric Hansen is the most likely of Khan’s men to have been given control of the platoons we defeated at Lochaid. He is serving under Meiko Sama, and will likely be headed North to regroup. I asked him how far their destination was from the Boil, and he said it was over a thousand leagues. I bemoaned that we could not travel that distance in a day, and Sorscha mumbled something about “fire mares,” which I did not understand.

During our conversation with Cotton, I broached the subject of him acting as an emissary to Kroenen’s supporters, should we reach the point where we have the footing to make a deal with the Vilholman. He grew incredibly uneasy at the mention of seeking out the Bowmen, due to the price on his head. I offered that we could disguise him and try to get him close to Kroenen so that they might speak in private. It was then that Cotton told me that the elite Dervish guards that we had seen around Kroenen belong to Al’Bashir; they are there to ensure that Kroenen is acting in accordance with Omar’s goals for the organization. In lieu of getting the man himself to aid in any possible talks with Kroenen’s loyalists, I asked Boris if he had any more of Vladimir’s personal symbols (like the one on his sword-belt). He said he did, but was hesitant to hand it over to me. I swore to use the symbol only to attempt to peaceably enter into agreements with Kroenen’s loyalists. He seemed satisfied, and handed me a cloak clasp bearing the stylized arrowhead of Kroenen.

My plan for the Bowmen is simple. If we can eliminate as many of Khan’s zealots as possible, we may be able to talk to those who are completely allied with Kroenen, and get them to start persuading those of mixed loyalty to the Vilholman into coming fully to his support. Though I have a bad history with “Black-eyed Sam,” I feel that she is the one who would be most likely to support such a campaign. Due to his actions against the people who he once called friends, his alliance with one so foul as Khan, and the fact that we may be able to catch him with less than a his full forces, I believe Aldric Hansen should be the first for us to eliminate.

We thanked Boris, and he made his exit. Conversation turned to a discussion of the Ironclad, and their plight within the Sink. Sir Seifer and Exilar exchanged some words, debating the merit of aiding the Ironclad at this moment. The paladin pointed out that we don’t know the intent of the Ironclad, and seemed to think it risky for us to try to form an alliance with them. The knight spoke to the character of those of the Ironclad he has met, and argued that whether or not they became allies, they were in need of assistance. The discussion ended with Exilar and Xar’eth departing for Temple Rise, and the rest of us heading back down into the Flith to locate Pete.

目覚める悪夢(Mezameru Akumu; Waking Nightmares)

The bog was dismal. Gnats and mosquitoes swarmed us such that we were constantly employed slapping and swiping at our bodies. This hindered my hearing, and heightened my unease at the sounds I heard coming out of the swamp around us. Sir Seifer slayed a stirge, and broke off its proboscis to wield like a short rapier. The bugs stopped bothering him, and the rest of us quickly followed suit. After what seemed an interminable amount of time, we reached what Pete deemed to be “dry land”, though we still had to wade through a fair bit of muck to get there. When the sun had descended to the point where it became difficult to see, we stopped for the night. Pete dug a hole in the ground for a bed, while the rest of us took turns keeping watch. Rest was fitful at best for those of us who could sleep, due to the persistent noises coming from the swamp. Splashes of water, cracking of tree branches, and vague shapes moving in the darkness haunted our waking and our dreaming, and we started out the next morning feeling fatigued.

As we drew near to the castle, we heard the sounds of battle coming from within the ruined courtyard. I scouted ahead of the party to watch for any signs of danger. Creeping up hill and around a corner, I narrowly missed a pit full of quicksand. I removed a spent torch from my pack and placed it face up in the pit in an attempt to warn my comrades of the danger, and continued on. Silently, I crept up to the wall of the courtyard and saw a mass of troglodytes assaulting some unknown party (presumably the Ironclad) that was hiding inside the castle entrance.

There was a large chieftain in the middle of the group, along with a trog bearing a staff; off to either side stood several more groups that were three-strong or more. They were throwing spears and exchanging bowfire with the unknown group inside the ruin. I stayed hidden behind the wall, drew my longbow, fired on one group of trogs attacking the ruin, and went invisible as they turned and charged toward my position. At that same moment, Sir Seifer rounded the corner and came to the courtyard entrance, screaming a challenge to the trogs in the ruin.

The battlefield erupted into a chaotic jumble of action. The trogs who were charging me stayed on their initial path, but were now headed for Seifer. As they approached, the swamp beside the knight began to roil, and a fountain of dark water erupted into the sky as a troll emerged and took a swing at him. Sir Seifer answered back with the blade he calls “Black Ice”, and its companion on his other hip, slashing a frozen cross-cut of deep gashes on the horrid thing’s chest. The troll let out an enraged bellow as the wound on its chest began to close. I strode back into some nearby cover and shot two arrows at it. The first hit home in his shoulder, with a loud CRACK-WHOOOM as sonic energy blew the wound apart, leaving the arm hanging by a flap of skin and muscle; the second took the thing just under the collarbone, and it dropped to the ground, dead. I went invisible, for fear that the sound of my bow had drawn attention to my position.

The next moment, my akumu came to life. A portal deep shadow erupted on the field of battle, beside the staff-bearing trog, who seemed to be in the throes of an incantation.
From the shadow grew a mass of tentacles, each ten feet long, with suction cups covered in barbed spikes. Inside the mass of shadow on the ground were many eyes, looking up and around the battlefield. Two tentacles shot out, and seized body of the trog shaman, barbed hooks piercing into his lizard-flesh. Then they wrenched downward, and the trog’s flesh was torn from its body like a banana peel. I looked into the sky and witnessed Nathaniel, who had apparently cast the spell, looking panicked, muttering something unintelligible and frantically waving his hands. The shadow-portal began to flicker and close, but as it snapped to several of the tentacles were severed, and remained writhing on the battlefield, wrapping around other hapless trogs, tearing their flesh with their barbs.

Over the course of the next thirty seconds or so, Seifer managed to slay the chieftain in single combat, and I and the rest of the group aided in bringing down any of the remaining trogs on the field. As I looked around to see if any more enemies remained, I spotted Sorscha moving toward the troll intently. At that moment, one of the severed tentacles (which apparently had fallen into the swamp) emerged from the water, and writhed down the dead troll’s throat, seeming to expand as it did, erupting out of the troll’s flesh in tendrils that wiggled around like a million tiny worms. The body was drawn into the swamp and disappeared.

Not wanting to wait around in the open for that abomination to emerge, we headed into the ruins to speak with the Ironclad. After some conversation, we found that the artifact they were searching for resided underwater in the ruins. One of their companions had ventured down to find it, only to emerge from the chamber as a mindless undead. I found the poor soul, and dispatched him swiftly. Feeling the burden of my fatigue, I moved back into the ruin and sat down on a stone column which had fallen onto the floor some time ago. My vision went dark, and I drifted into an uneasy sleep, filled with dreams of writhing tentacles and rending flesh, and a great shadow-beast which stalked us through the swamp.

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Into the Swamp. The Ironclad. Abomination.
Sorscha

Refreshing as it was to have accomplished something so simply good, it was not to last.

Cotton provided us additional information on the structure of the Bowmen and their intrinsic rivalries. Understandably, he was eager to set off and secure the safety of his daughter. After a few more questions, we let let him on his way. Hershel, in the most uncomfortable manner possible, invited him to take refuge within Lochaid or the Rise. To his credit, he managed to keep a mostly even expression and simply said that he’d see us again.

The rest of us sat around the table in the back room for a bit, some opting for the food and refreshment that Olaf provided free-of-charge, some simply conversing about the night. In short order, we split up to find lodging for the night. Some of us, myself included returned to the inn at the crown of the town, while some stayed at the Duck. It was only Ser Seifer that struck out on his own. He indicated that he would be returning the Ironclad skyship to take his rest. He seems to be disquited by many of our behaviors, though he shares goals that align with (most) of ours. No doubt he finds solace in a more military structure. This may…strain his tolerance in times to come.

After a night spent above the miasma of the lower town, we reconvened to determine our course. Seifer brought up our our secondary objective, which had been to establish contact with the Ironclad and possibly gain their assistance against the Bowmen. He had conferred further with the remaining soldier in the ship and had found out that the rest of his comrades has departed further into the Sink, searching for some significant item, though he wasn’t free to say what. Seifer made the case that we should seek them out now to make a case for alliance and, if needs be, to assist them in their task. I would hardly think that a cadre of professional soldiers would need our help, but apparently the remaining soldier (Wallace, possibly, I’m still not used to some of these surfacer names) had enough concern about his comrades and the time that they had been gone that he convinced Seifer, as well.

Although I wanted almost nothing more than to be out of this feted mire, I agreed with the knight’s intent. As did almost all of us, except Xar’eth and surprisingly, Exelar. He indicated that he felt that he had met the duty of the vision that led him here and that he needed to return to the rise to ensure the progress and safety of the newly-populated village. The weight of responsibilty must be weighing on him to leave in the middle of an action like this. But I cannot dispute his reasoning. Still, we need to finish what we set out to do before returning. The two of them headed out on their mounts and the rest of us gathered out things and headed to the stinking stew that was the docks.

We collected Pete on the way and headed our into the swamp. I was relieved to be out of the press of Carrion Hill. Certainly, the open swamp wasn’t pleasant, but it didn’t have the additional layers of filth created by too many people living in too small a location. Slapping at buzzing and stinging insects, we followed directions provided to Seifer and filtered through Pete’s knowledge of the area. Progress was slow and the air was thick, but in time we ran up on a piece of firm ground that Pete said would be as close as we could land. We had a walk ahead of us.

After an indeterminate time of forging through wet gullies and sodden earth, we heard the sounds of battle from over a rise up ahead. Hershel and fanned out to the sides while Seifer went straight up the middle, followed by Nathaniel and Wulfgar. Clearing the burm, I could see that what appeared to be the ramparts of a keep that had half-sunken into the swamp. Defending the walls were the Ironclad that we were here to find. Assaulting their position were troglodytes! I’d never seen this kind of behavior from them but they were outright attacking the walls and men. They also appeared to have a powerful shaman or sorcerer with them, backing a large and rather imposing raid leader.

Following character, Seifer charged down the throat of the narrow isthmus, intent on reaching the leader. In his wake, several trogs emerged from the water on each side of the pathway, turning to his path. on one side, thunderous arrows lanced out, announcing Hershel’s entry into the fight. Wulfgar also so stepped up to engage them, drawing them away from Seifer’s back. Nathaniel appeared to be risking the step up as well, casting from behind the shield of the larger man. Having waited for an opening, I could see that a side was not entirley covered, so I drew shadow around me and advanced the flank of the trogs there.

Wulfgar, Hershel, and myself cleared out the rank and file to either side fairly efficiently. Though I noted that they definitley seemed more hardy?, more aggressive?, than a standard troglodyte. Maybe they had become used to conflict with the town. Seifer continued to trade blows with the raid leader, when I noticed their mystic. I’m not an arcanist, but living among the drow, I’ve learned to notice when rather dangerous magicks were being worked. Their caster had that look. I began to head his way, when I was set on by some additional trogs from the water that I had to stop and dispatch. Seifer was still engaged with the burly trog and Wulfgar was shielding Nathaniel. For their part, the Ironclad had taken the opportunity to begin raining down bolts and arrows on the remaining troglodytes. I was analyzing my options when Nathaniel finished a spell.

I thought I knew the spell that he had cast, but I had never seen it do what it did. Black, rubbery tentacles erupted from what appeared to a small portal in the ground around the trog caster and some of the footsoldiers. Normally these would entangle and interfere with those in the area, but this was different. The appendages were covered in suckers and spikes, dripping something about which I’d rather not speculate. They latched and tore into several smaller trogs, leaving their hide in shreds. This was clearly not what Nathaniel had expected, judging from the look on his face, and he ended the spell. But instead of simply disappearing, the portal closed on the tentacles, which were severed, but remained in existence and fell to the sodden ground. Two of the largest tentacles had dropped into the swamp water.

Seifer had driven Black Ice into the raid leader, who fell to the dirt, and turned to advance on the caster, who stumbled backward to the water’s edge. He flung spells around him, some hitting home. However, Hershel lanced several arrows into his side and Seifer finished him with a strike.

I began to to turn my attention to the few remaining trogs, when suddenly, an olog – a troll – erupted from the water. It appeared to have been attracted by the battle and not, it seemed, an ally of the trogs as they tried to scatter out of its way. Though one was too slow and was crushed in the creatures great paw, the filthy claws tearing furrows through the pitiful thing.

As I was deciding how best to move on the beast, it let out a bellow as two of the large severed tentacles from Nathaniel’s spell erupted from the swamp and latched onto it. They squirmed onto him and curled tightly, actually splitting his hide and opening bloody rends across his body. As the troll turned to bite at a tentacle, one of them drove into his throat, rupturing the skin of his neck and nearly de-gloving his head. It writhed in pain and I narrowly avoided having arm torn off as I rolled away from the lash of a sucker-covered arm. At this point, the appendages had wrapped almost entirely around the creature’s body, when suddenly a tear appeared and a giant, weeping yellowed eye opened in what had been the stomach of the olog. It swiveled around and then the new abomination dove backward into the brackish water and disappeared.

The area fell to an oppressive silence. The Ironclad began to gesture that we come up and, after a careful look around, we did so. Aside from some suspicious glances at myself, they knew drow and didn’t like them, I’ll admit to not paying attention to what they had started to say. The issue with Nathaniel’s spell was disturbing. It reminded me of the encounetr with the deep dragon and the old one in the goblin caves near Three Cedars. All of this was bringing up a memory from home that clearly didn’t want to be recalled. With no clarity coming, I paced the walltops of the submerged keep, watching the water for the thing that the trog mystic had become. A splash startled me, but I turned only to Seifer emerging from a pool in the roof of this place, with what appeared to be a sheathed sword in his hands.

I wandered back over as I saw him draw the blade in front of the Ironclad soldiers. I can’t say exactly what it was, but it was intricately designed and appeared to be forged from a deep golden metal that showed no signs of having been submerged. Though I missed most of the negotiation, I gathered at the end that Seifer had negotiated an alliance of sorts with them and that they were seeking a twin to the blade that had been found but Seifer was to keep claim of this one. I’ll have to speak to him later to go over the details. For now, as much as I’d like to say that it was time to leave the Sink, I fear that we’ll be headed back to the Boil to plan our next step with new allies.

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Fire in filth, Righteous fury
Notes of Ser Seifer

Another day waking in the stench of this poverty stricken town. Hoping to move on and find the missing Ironclad, I waiting for the meeting with Boris Cotton. Having some time to kill, I was interested in this temple of Pharasma in the center of the upper city. Apparently a god of the dead, Pharasma is worshiped by Carrion Hill and the Temple was striking. The bones of the dead were bleached and polished and used to decorate the walls of the temple. I had an eerie feeling and did not know how to accept this style of worship. I talked to a cleric of Pharasma for a bit and decided I would return to my companions and learn more later.

Meeting up with the others, it was time to meet Boris Cotton. A man with obvious military training, he was not like the other bowmen I have seen. The fact he agreed to meet with us at all says much for his dislike for the Bowmen for he knew who we were and what he have done. Oddly enough, Exelar Vitarri did not say one word during our meeting. Sorscha and myself did most of the talking. He explained to us the basic structure of the Bowmen and why there was internal struggles. This sounded a lot like the trouble The Watchmen had as Exelar Vitarri had described to me. Ideas and plans were forming in my head. I bounced back between my thoughts and plans and listening to Cotton. I admit I should have paid more attention to the information Cotton was giving, but all I could focus on was how I was going to cripple the Bowmen organization and bring them to their knees.

As we got down to business with Cotton about why we are here and what we wanted, he said he would not give us details and his help unless he did something for him. Apparently someone Cotton cared for deeply was being held prisoner by the Bowmen. The Bowmen had a compound in the city that Sorscha had found earlier. If Cotton was going to help us, we had to rescue this person for him, however we felt. The front door. Head on, Honor on the line and glory as the reward. Luckily Sorscha was not hot headed and knew to cause a distraction so the crows wouldn’t arrest me immediately. Using Nathaniel Brommson and his magic to cast the illusion of a troglodyte attack and setting fire to a part of the slums, we had our distraction. I was to be in a tavern close to the compound with Caleb, and Exelar Vitarri and Sorscha would be in another near by.

The plan was made, time for the pieces to take their place on the board. Let the game begin. Entering the tavern, I noticed there were already 2 Bowmen in here. The Goddess Altua was with me today as luck was on my side. I had two bowmen all to myself before the siege began. Minutes went by, I could barely contain myself. Finally, panic and disarray, the fire and illusion were in place. My turn. As the patrons ran out of the tavern, to my luck the bowmen stayed to drink. Not thinking danger was near or he was in peril, he kept drinking as I approached him. All he got out was a glare and “what do you want?” before I had drawn Black Ice, turned out the fires and opened him chest to hip. As the lights went out the other bowmen and the barkeep went into an alerted state, but not enough to matter. Before Caleb could react I had run Black Ice through the other bowmen. Job completed I felt disgusted that I had ruined this honest working mans business for the night so I left him my entire pouch of gold coins.

Walking outside, the panic and chaos was music to our ears, but my knightly training was under attack. It was not noble and honorable to lie to these people and set building on fire, but for the greater good we had to do it. The fact that I was forced to stoop to this level just to get rid of despicable men angered me. I guess you could say I was enraged, because after I charged the front door of the compound and slew the first bowmen I saw, I don’t remember the rest of the night. My righteous fury had taken hold and I let the gods guide me.

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A Rescue. Troglodytes. A New Ally.
Sorscha

I can’t stand this city.

I was raised in the Long Dark, among the Drow. I’ve been through the slave pits and stalked the goblin warrens. I’ve seen the temples of the filth priests. And for some reason, this place bothers me more. Maybe it’s the contrast against the light and clarity of this new world I’ve found myself or that, even as female of no house, I had enough privilege in my dark home that I adjusted to it. Either way, I cannot wait to leave this rotting hulk. But first, we have business.

After a night’s stay in an upper city inn – complete with a scalding hot bath to try feeling clean again – we had many hours to pass before our meeting. Olaf, the bartender at the Mucky Duck, had arranged a meeting with Boris Cotton. This was the man that Hershel had chased from the tavern with his ‘diplomacy’. As a former Bowman, he could be a crucial source of information to address our ignorance of the greater structure of that group. If we are able to convince him that it’s in his interest to do so. We split up to pass the time until then. Deciding that I didn’t know enough about the layout of this town, I set my will against my disgust and set out to learn it.

Along the northern edge of the island and between the dock ward and the town wall, was a large, greenish field. Initially, I thought it scrub land reserved for cultivating food or livestock. Upon approaching closer, however, I discovered that was actually a large algae mat that covered the entire area (a small bay? shallow swampland? I am unsure). Though this could easily be a penned area for scouring fish, the algae mats could just as easily serve as sustenance for the poor.

Deciding not to descend to docks again, locally called the Filth apparently, I remained within the town wall and found myself walking through an open market. The market itself seemed a fairly standard one for the surface, though in breadth and variety, it paled next to the great shuks of Qataban. Strange to think of the great desert city. I briefly wonder if I will lay eyes on it again.

I found nothing that I needed or desired and then I rounded a corner to a strange sight. There were troglodyte heads on spikes, arranged like a macabre bouquet and standing from a woven basket next to a merchant’s stall. The woman noticed my glance and engaged me on them. I asked briefly why she had them and this began her on a bit of a tirade about the reptiles. I was able to gather that the creatures lived in large numbers in the swamp around the town. And that only their innate cowardice and the large number of city defenders, the Crows, kept them from regularly raiding the city. Slaying them appeared to be a symbol of loyalty to their home in the swamp. Moving on through the market, a familiar emblem on a tunic caught my eye; the Bowmen were here.

Pulling the cowl of my piwafi up over my somewhat distinctive hair, I moved casually into position where it would be difficult for them to see me watching them. They shortly finished their transactions and headed out of the market. As I followed them, I saw that they moved without worry, without concern of being observed. Ultimately, they approached a storefront that also bore the Bowmen insignia. They had a public office here. I made note of where I was in the town and retreated. Realizing that I’d spent more time meandering than I intended, I turned toward the Mucky Duck for our appointment with Cotton.

Meeting my companions on route and in the common room, we gathered and were quickly ushered into a back room by Olaf. It was here that Boris Cotton and another awaited us. To a random observer, Cotton appeared…unremarkable. However, for those trained to notice, he held himself in a manner trained to unconscious habit by years of practice. The large human male that stood at his side held a similar bearing. We took our seats.

The negotiations went as expected. Why should he trust or help us? Couldn’t he see that we were trying to help the innocent? Back and forth. He did confirm that he was with the Bowmen and no longer was. He also let us know that at least one faction, Trask’s, was still watching him. This was the reason that he was at Carrion Hill. He was protected from attack, as the Crows enforced the peace, but he was under observation (from the Bowmen office I found earlier) and couldn’t leave this place for the same. And it turns out that there was another reason that he couldn’t leave. The Bowman had a hostage.

After much back and forth, Cotton finally came to the point that he would only provide us with information if we helped him first. The Bowmen were holding a female that was important to him. At the building that I had located earlier. If we rescued her without harm and returned her to him. he would consent to provide us with what we wanted. He seemed doubtful.

We turned to one another and began planning what to do right there at the table, in front of Cotton. I could see that he was paying attention. Recalling Nathaniel’s work of illusion when defending Three Cedars, I asked if he could do it again, but with troglodytes this time. If we could pull enough attention away from the Bowmen storefront, we might be able to open a window during which the Crows were distracted and we could act against the Bowmen directly. We sent Hershel, with his bat cloak, to search the compound to ensure that they still held the girl, Alexandria, and to find where she was. He returned shortly with confirmation.

At this point, Cotton was engaged. He seemed eager and just perhaps he began to believe that we could do what we claimed. He let us know that there were an estimated 16 Bowmen in total, along with some hired workers. He also advised us that the there were two messengers that the Bowmen routinely employed. If either of them got a message out, they bring reinforcements and end this venture swiftly. He also said that one of them, Eddy Silk (apparently this is a real name on the surface), could be bought off. The other would have to be killed. Surprisingly, he volunteered to resolve both issues for us.

If the illusion worked as we hoped, and drew the Crows away, then Hershel and myself would infiltrate over the walls of the Bowman compound while Exelar, Caleb, and Seifer drew their attention by barreling through their front door. To enhance the illusion, we would also set fires in the docks and Cotton’s companion, Trevor, went with Nathaniel and Wulfgar to set it up. Deciding that there was no time like the present, we set the plan into motion.

Strike from the Shadows

Nathaniel and his group headed out to the docks of the Filth. The rest of broke into smaller groups and searched for taverns to await the signal. Exelar, Seifer, and myself ended up at one such establishment. In a rare fit of fortune, there were three Bowman there. We ordered drinks and waited.

Shortly thereafter, the cries went up from the lower town. Fire! Troglodytes! Most of the bar patrons, including two of the three Bowmen ran out to see what was happening. However, one of them, deep into his cups, remained at the bar. Exelar and Seifer followed the others into the street. Seizing the chance, I wreathed my self in shadows and moved towards the bar. The barkeep, seeing the shadows advance toward him, froze in place and dropped the mug he was cleaning, causing the drunken Bowman to look up at him. In an instant, I seized the man’s head, channeled my strength, and wrenched it up and around with all my strength. He dropped to the counter, dead.

From my veil of shadow, I looked at the barkeep and drew a finger to my pursed lips. I set several steel coins upon the counter and locked his gaze. He nodded numbly as I then smiled darkly at him and made my exit. further down the lane, I found that the other two had each dispatched their Bowmen, as well. Walking past, I saw that one body’s wounds were seared closed while the others were frostbitten. It seemed a good omen.

Moving on toward the Bowmen compound, we met up with the others. It turned out that they had also found a brace of Bowmen and had dispatched them handily. As the compound came into sight, I faded into darkness, Hershel took wing, and a lance of purplish-black light, Xar’eth no doubt, struck a Bowman in the front of the building as our infantry plowed into them.

Dodging down an alley, I clambered up a wall, using drainpipes and balconies to lever myself up and over the wall. I could see the small bat that was Hershel and used him as a guide while dropping silently down into the courtyard. I heard the clashing of metal and grunts of pain as the others continued to occupy the Bowman forces in the front. Locating the bat, it flew across the yard and into an entrance that appeared to drop down below the ground. Unseen, I entered and followed it down.

Following stairs down, they ended in a long hallway. It was dark, of course, with only a few guttering torches. But it was also wet. The air was damp and the walls were coated in condensation. It must have been close to the water level of the swamp. I could hear voices in the distance and began down the hall, when a whisper brought me up short.

Hershel was in a cell off the main hallway with the girl. Having flitted through the bars as a bat, he forgot that she could not get out as easily. I drew back the bar and directed both of them out. Looking back to make sure that they were out before I made my move further in, I saw Caleb coming down the stairs. He was clearly spoiling for a fight. But I stopped him and had him hold while searched farther in. I was in for surprise.

The room at the hall’s end had a set of stairs that descended into swampy water. Standing at the water’s edge were troglodytes. One of them clearly was a tribe chief. And surrounding them were five Bowmen. One of them stood out. Speaking to the trog chief, he had twin swords slung across his back and a dangerous bearing. Even with Caleb at my side, this was a dangerous proposition. The trogs looked ill at ease and their conversation with the Bowmen seemed strained. I could use this.

I pulled out a blade that I had stuffed into my boot and marked the position of one of the Bowmen. Calling upon my Drow heritage, I dropped a sphere of shadows onto the troglodytes and the leading edge of the Bowmen, then through the dagger into the thigh of one of them. He cried out that the trogs were attacking and took a swing at one of them. The leader, I think I heard his men call him Kane, seemed to hesitate. He wasn’t falling for my gambit. But at the last moment, the trog chief attacked him and went all in.

I cloaked myself in shadow and snuck into the room, behind the Bowmen. Caleb, seeing me disappear, took this as his cue and charged down the hallway. Kane struck the chieftan’s head from his shoulders with a scissor of his twin blades and turned to face Caleb’s charge. I struck at a Bowman as he struck down a trog and they both fell dead at the waters edge. Taking advantage of Caleb’s distraction, I stuck at Kane as walked to the hall. Though my hit struck home, he didn’t fall. He recovered his balance, gave me a look and turned so that he could see both Caleb and my self. But fortune remained with us.

The stones were slick around the water, causing his strike to go wide. Caleb’s rush hit him true and, though it wasn’t disabling, he did lose his footing. Taking the opportunity, I struck as well and Kane went down into the water. Resetting my footing in anticipation of his return, I waited. But he did not rise from water. Suddenly, the waters surface began to roil and then resettled. A dark reddish stain drifting to the surface announced his fate. A moment later, a troglodyte rose slowly from the water, locking his eyes with mine. As I made no advance toward it, it took the head of the former chief and sunk back below the water, never breaking our gaze. It was done.

Deciding that perhaps the Bowmen could be censored or even exiled if the town watch investigated the compound and found them associating with troglodytes, we dragged one of their bodies up to the courtyard and set fire to the building as we left. Exelar had intercepted Hershel and the hostage girl and was already returning to the tavern, and to Boris Cotton. It was time to go.

We broke up as we left the now burning compound to avoid being seen travelling as a group. As we reached the Mucky Duck, we could hear new cries about a second fire, nearby. Here’s hoping that they found the evidence that we intended for them. Entering the tavern and the back room again, we entered to find Cotton embracing his newly freed daughter. We had saved a life and, in doing so, secured an ally. After a time, Cotton began to provide an initial briefing on the Bowmen while we enjoyed a task well completed.

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Smells like.....adventure?
Ser Seifer

Our path was set and we were about to head off to Carrion Hill when Exelar Vitarri and Xar’eth Teken’und walked into the Inn we were staying at. Apparently he had a vision and he believed he was needed in our quest to The Boil. I won’t argue with having another honorable fighter and noble, yet tunnel visioned man with us. The Drow however I have to keep an eye on. I am glad he in not skulking in the spire anymore.

We boarded a barge and were on our way on the river towards Carrion Hill. I offered my service to help row the barge while my companions simply sat there and did nothing. that is there right to do so as we paid to board, but I felt it good to have good relations with the boatman as I was going to ask for directions and information and did not want to be mislead.
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The stench came first and then the view. The Boil was a fitting name for the festering town that lay before us. Trash, dead fish, excrement, and other foul smells all rolled into one disgusting wave. This was what we were greeted we as we arrived in the dirtiest part of the town. Before departing the boat I thanked the boatman and asked if he knew anything about the Ironclad and their whereabouts. He pointed me to a tall building a ways up the hill with what seemed to have a boat on the roof. That was my destination regardless of where my companions were headed. I needed answers and I need to know who and what the Ironclad are.

The town seemed to be separated into districts. We were headed towards the middle district known as “The Tangle.” Posted at the junction between the districts were the city guard known as “The Crows.” Again I asked them were I could find the Ironclad and they pointed me towards the building with boat on the roof which was next to the Mucky Duck Tavern. They asked us to not cause trouble, stick to our business and not to travel the alleyways alone at night. Seeing as I don’t go looking for trouble and I had no other business here I was happy to oblige and be on my way.

Arriving at the Mucky Duck my companions went inside while I was still convinced the Ironclad were in the boat on the roof. As It was getting dark I was skeptical of knocking on every door asking for directions so I tried the front door. The man was very upset that I was bothering him only in search for the Ironclad. He pointed me up to the roof but did not tell me how to get there and proceeded to toss his chamber pot at me, as did many more people in the building. Continuing my search for the roof I seemed to have gotten turned around and found myself lost in the alleyways alone. I was not scared of being alone and what might happen as the crows warned us not to be alone, but I was lost and not able to find who I was looking for.

After some wandering, a kind lady pointed me in the direction of some narrow stairs that seemed to lead to the roof. Half way up the stairs, I was confronted by a man who barred m way and demanded a toll. Three more men were behind me. I was outnumbered, but they were outmatched. He demanded “two steel”, which I presumed was the currency here. I politely told him I did not want trouble, I was “simply looking to find the men known as the Ironclad.” He demanded two steel to leave, or proceed. I told him I had two steel and told him I would show him the first. I then drew “Black Ice” and asked if he wished to proceed. They struck first. One from back, and the man in front of me. Both glancing off my armor. Activating “Black Ice” the lights went out around us and skill came more into play. The narrow stairway hindered my fighting ability with a sword, but I was able to thrust and thrust I did. Into the man in front of me went “Black Ice” and deep at that. His entire weight seemed to fall towards me. I reacted by hoisting the man over my back and tossing him down the stairs onto his "friends: below. As his body stopped his tumble down the stairs, I told them " one down, three to go" and they fled.

After my encounter, I proceeded onto the roof to find the boat, which was one a roof several buildings away. “Goddess help me. Some times I have the worst luck.” As I wandered on, I came across Exelar Vitarri and the others at another set of stairs. I lead the way up and there was the boat. Before we could get close to it, we were confronted my a giant of man with a hollow booming voice. It was not a man at all. It resembled the stone guardian at Temple Rise, except this one was my intellectual and had a mind of its own. Made of metal, wood fibers, and stone he had symbols etched into him that resembled the armor we had seem in the armory of the Temple be slightly different. Hoping he would see reason, I said I was here to talk with the Ironclad. A boy came from the shadows and halted the guardian and introduced himself as Lance Corporal Wallace. He was the last of the Ironclad left here in the city. The rest had gone on an expedition many days ago and had not come back.

As it was late and we needed lodging for the night, my companions left to seek lodging. I asked to stay with Wallace and his guardian to get to know more about who and what the Ironclad are. I was intrigued by both the boat which he said “flew” at one time, and the guardian that accompanied Wallace. Perhaps they would help us in The Wildlands if we help them? Perhaps I could use them on my crusade against the Bowmen? Time will tell.

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The Boil
Journal Entry of Exelar Vitarri

Sorscha, Hershel, Nathaniel and his companions had only left with Soggy Pete hours before I had the vision during my midday prayers. Though there was nothing specific in it to make me worry, they feeling that my presence was necessary was enough to bring me out of my reverie. Xar’eth arrived just as I woke informing me of his progress with the Spire. He believes he has control of the Spire but more time will be required to be sure, and possibly the Soul Gem. I inform him I will be leaving to join our companions and he agrees to accompany me, and after borrowing a house from the new arrivals we set off.

The trail is fairly easy to follow being only hours old and them being on foot. We talk to several people they passed on the way to Anglers Cove, including those at the Graham Homestead. We catch up before they set off from there and store our horses with the stable, paying a week in advance. Finding a boat to rent was the next step and before long we set off towards Carrion Hill, also known as The Boil, for reasons that would become plainly obvious.

Why anyone would choose to live in a place like this is beyond me, but live here they do. Thousands of people crammed into islands, natural and man-made, that reek of sewage and filth. Living amongst the people are bugs that infest the place, giant cockroaches that these people grind up and turn into a makeshift building material in what they call Midden vats. Between the smell of cooking bugs and the waste floating down the river it’s a wonder that everyone isn’t dead or at least infected with various diseases. The boatsmen tell us the smell improves as you move up into the city, which certainly gives us a sense of urgency to hurry into the city and find the Ironclad. We are directed towards a building with what appears to be a boat on top of it.

The town guard, The Crows, are as plentiful as the bugs and just as helpful in finding the Ironclad. Finally we are directed towards the Mucky Duck, which is a bastion from the smells of city. Quite honestly if I didn’t know what was all around me I would feel very relaxed. Seifer went off on his own to find the Ironclad on his own while I tried asking at the bar. The bartender directed us towards their ship and we tried some ale, while Hershel decided to ask some of the locals about a former member of the Bowmen known as Cotton. While if could be just a lack of knowledge of our customs or something else, he appeared to say something that caused a gentleman to get up and leave. As he was gathering his things Hershel than made a gesture towards the mans crotch and said something about being interested, after the man left Hershel said a symbol on his sword belt buckle was familiar.

Just as the bartender was going to throw us out I explained who we are and our intentions in the city and he said he might be able to help. Saying people are aware of our battles with the Bowmen and he would try and get a message to Cotton if we could be back the next day. We agreed and set off to find Seifer, who had been missing for far too long. Heading towards the stairs that would lead us to the Ironclads boat we found him but in the process lost Hershel. When we arrive on the roof and find the ship it is being guarded by a large armored being that questions our presence. He is joined shortly by a young man still in his teens that invites us on board to talk.

Apparently they are all that’s left of their contingent that crashed their flying skiff here roughly a month and half ago. The others traveled northeast of here to explore ruins and have not been heard from since. He stayed behind along with their living, sentient suit of armor to guard the ship. We discuss the Bowmen and our problems with them, and we agree to help locate their missing allies if they will assist us against the Bowmen. Or meeting was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Hershel which caused great alarm to the large automaton. After the meeting Seifer stayed behind on the boat while we moved further up the hill to find an inn. Apparently our appearance didn’t look up to par and if it wasn’t for the timely intervention of some new friends we wouldn’t have rooms.

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Into the Basin
Sorscha

Though recently returned, our time at Temple Rise was not to last.

Upon reaching Three Cedars, I saw that they had begun to establish a perimeter. Additionally, the knight, Seifer, had a handful of villagers running through their paces. He appeared to enjoy the work and, if I’m honest, there was at least some improvement from when we last did battle here.

A few of the townsfolk from Hemlock Field decided to stay. Apparently they knew people at the Cedars and preferred to take comfort among them rather than seek a more defensible location to resettle. This would also benefit the hamlet, if Seifer could get his training to take hold. We left for Temple Rise and he decided to accompany us.

We stopped briefly in Lochaid, to ensure that the new residents were getting settled in. Hershel made a point of advising that no one try settling in “that building”, the dark one that he’s had a morbid fascination with. Can’t say that I disagreed with him. Talking with Olt, I learned that he had requested an additional contingent of dwarves to help rebuild and guard the suddenly booming population.

Through some sorcery, I assume, Xar’eth now occupied a restored Scarlet Spire. Though not unimpressive, I’ve seen similar feats before. Though he certainly acted in his own best interest, he had yet to move against the group directly, so I had other priorities. Our new magehound seemed to be getting more comfortable with Nathaniel and very much less so with our warlock companion. I left the others to hammer in vain at the solid door, demanding entry (though they made their way soon enough). I needed to report to Exelar.

After conferring, we collectively decided that we were deficient of information. If we had any hope of dealing with the Bowmen, we needed to know more about them and the wider area that we’d entered into. Soggy Pete agreed to guide us and after a night’s rest, we set back down into the Basin.

Coming Down the Mountain.
We decided to take a different path known to the trollkin, rather than risk going back through Hemlock Field so soon. We left the Rise, headed through Three Cedars, and then on to the village of Pulga, which we’d heard from refugees had been destroyed. Upon arriving, we could see that they were correct. Pulga had been razed.

Smoke and some guttering flames still belched from what had once been a small settlement. Naught was left of the buildings but a few portions of stone foundation and the charcoal remains of timbers. More disturbing was the fact that there were bodies staked out in front of the town. Dead, all of them. And then we caught movement in the village. Moving in closer, I was able to see that they weren’t people; not any more, at least. Like Elder Greene and the bodies locked below the Spire, they were dead. A few well-placed shots from Hershel felled them. Is this the remnant of the ‘plague’ that the dwarves had been concerned about?

At Pete’s insistence, we moved on from the remains of Pulga. We were bound for a place he called the Graham “Homestead”. A rather grand name, in my mind for a house with growing lands and a secondary, smaller residence. There turned out to be a primary couple living here – the titular Grahams – along with a second bonded couple and a labor hand. The family heads were Siogh and Aariama.

For a change, they seemed a fairly pragmatic lot. Though they had no love for Bowmen, they allowed them through and even provided supplies, if they caused no trouble. Interestingly, it seems that factions among the Bowmen have something of a reputation of being reasonable, or more trouble than others. They also anticipated who we were, having heard rumors of some activity around Temple Rise. We accepted their offer of respite and stayed for the evening. In our interactions, I did note that the people themselves were from different areas around the Basin. Apparently, this was intentional, especially on the part of a community called Anglers Cove (which turned out to be out next destination).

Heading to Angler’s Cove, Soggy Pete again proved his worth as an emissary, buying us pause from the locals that we otherwise might not get. Convincing him to come along was an action on the part of Hershel and Nathaniel. However, in this case, that goodwill was tested. One of these ‘covemen’ challenged our entry, accusing us of being or working for the Bowmen. I must admit that my self-control…slipped…a bit and my companions had to lay a hand on me to keep me from breaking our accuser. However, this seemed enough to convince him and we were allowed entry.

Obviously, the people here held no love for the Bowmen. Similar to the Grahams, my impression was that they may tolerate them moving through sometimes, but brooked not foolishness from them. It seems that everyone in this land had to accept Bowmen authority, to one degree or another. The only good part of this is that does appear to have bred resentment, as well.

Pausing before our next leg, we took rooms in the local inn. Listening to the townsfolk and some of my companion’s conversations, it seems as though Angler’s Cove actively manages it’s population. It frequently sends people out into the lands in order to remain a certain size. This was perplexing until I caught a familiar sign near the docks, heading to the inn: troglodytes. Not the creatures themselves, but sign of them and their work. Did the town have an arrangement with a nearby tribe? I’ll have to keep this in mind.

While we were partaking in a meal (except for me, the new ring has taken effect and though extremely useful, I find not need to eat a bit odd), A bar tough started making a ruckus. Having been among my companions for so long, I had almost forgotten the kind of attention that a drow can draw on the surface and the troublemaker’s gaze settled on me. Just as I was loosening my limbs and making sure that I had enough room to move as I needed, Seifer moved in and intercepted the man. Was he itching for a fight or did he truly believe that I needed protection? Either way, he was an excellent distraction.

Seifer blocked the man’s way, insisting that he return to his own business, at which point the man attacked him. Assuming that Seifer was capable enough to deal with a single tough, I took a look around the common room. At the last moment, I noticed another figure moving toward the fight. So, there were two of them, and Bowmen at that. And this one was mine.

Using my own trained swiftness, enhanced by the greaves I’d acquired, I was on him in an instant. At the last moment, before striking, he whispered that he was trying to help and to let him make his move. I don’t know why, but I took the gamble. I knew that I could drop him if needed, and Seifer was encased in metal, so I had reason to fear yet. A quick knife throw and this new one had fatally wounded the other. He then asked me to play along and walk with him back to my booth. Intrigued, I followed.

Sitting down, I asked why he had helped us. He answered that it wasn’t his intent and that he was here for the ruffian; despite the fact that they were both Bowmen. The strife among their factions ran deeper than we realized. He was clearly on edge and preparing to leave, but he also said I should ask any questions that I had now.

I asked after Trask and was told that his men had several mobile camps, but that their main base of operations were in a set of caves to the North of The Sink. And that they kept a presence in The Boil. I then asked why the Bowmen were spread out over the basin. What were they looking for? I don’t know what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t the fact that they were searching ruins for “an artifact lost to Law”.

He also mentioned a ‘feared name’ in the search or among the factions that had been hiring
surfacers as well as darkfolk to carry out their missions. As he said this, he stood to go. I pressed and asked what this fearful name was. He only looked back, said “Nakarris”, and left. I have no idea who this could be, but if our luck stays it’s course, whoever this is will be bad news.

Ah, Seifer appears to have been cleared of charges from the authorities. Time to rest, then. Tomorrow promises no less interest than today.

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The Theatre of War grows
Ser Seifer

The training of Three Cedars went well. For three days I have taught the villagers what I can about knightly combat and using my knowledge to their advantage. On the fourth day, refugees from Hemlock Field began to arrive followed by my companions. They told me of what had transpired and the new threat we face in Lieutenant Trask, a man of savage brutality and no honor. Beheading an Elder of the village just to prove a point, while his men watched in acceptance. This I can not allow. Learning also that Trask was accompanied by what appeared to be a mage solidified my decision.This man had now become a target for me to unleash my righteous wrath.

Returning to the Ruins of Lochaid and Temple Rise, I immediately went to the temple to pray and make a new vow. "I set down my lance, symbol of duty. I spurn those whom I love. I relinquish all and take up the tools of my quest. No obstacle will stand before me. No plea for help shall find me wanting. No moon will look upon me twice lest I be judged idle. I give by body, heart and soul to the Goddess whom I serve. Let my crusade begin. When the clarion call is sounded I will ride out and fight in the name of liege and Lady. I, Ser Seifer Garrow, hereby declare my Crusade against The Bowmen.

After resting and gathering our wits and strength, we set forth to The Boil, in search of answers. Answers about the Bowmen, the order known as the Ironclad, and answers about the plague making the dead walk. As a rather disgusting man, if you can call him a man, guided us through the lands we came upon another village that seemed quite odd. The village was known as Anglers Cove and it was not quite what it seemed. The economy and busyness of the village was that of a settlement twice its size, yet this place did not grow in size and prosper. The village was not run down or poor by any means but something didn’t seem right. Our entrance to the village was met by the overseer and we were questioned of who we were and what our business was. It seems the Bowmen are still a threat and a menace even this far south. Sorscha did not take kindly to the man accusing us of being Bowmen. With a little “persuasion” we were allowed into the village.

As my companions enjoyed the relaxation of a tavern, the first one we have seen in a long time, I walked about town trying to figure this odd place out. After a while I returned to the tavern to rest. Upon entering something caught my eye. Two men were observing Sorscha. However out of place or disturbing to see she was in this place, she is still my companion and I would not allow her to be ogled at from the shadows. As I confronted the hooded figure staring at Sorscha, he denied his actions. Once pressed and agitated, he lunged at me with a knife. I was more disappointed with him than upset. To think that a knife could stop me, much less kill me. A fight ensued, but after drawing Black Ice and snuffing all the fires in the tavern, I disposed of him with ease.

Only after the fight did I know that he was a Bowman. Sorscha apparently approached the other man watching her and talked the entire time I was dealing with the other man. Either she has faith in me, or does not care I was defending her honor. I must question her on this. At the same time, Hershel, was gambling the entire time. Standing up briefly only to take advantage of the dim lighting I provided to win his game. But I digress, the other man was a part of Vladamir Kronin’s men. It seems the Bowmen are not as unified as we thought. Many names came up in the parley between the man and Sorcha. She would remember them better than I, but one has stuck in my mind, Nakarris. Who was he? Why is he spoken of in hushed tones? I must know.

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A Settlement in Danger
Sorscha

Although the time deciding seemed interminable, the decision was actually made quickly. The only real option was to aid this new village.

Having only just beaten back the Bowmen from Three Cedars, we couldn’t commit everyone and leave them open to a possible counterattack. Myself, Xar’eth, Hershel, and Nathaniel would accompany the runner, Horatio, back to his home. The others would remain to help establish defenses and train the Cedarmen against future aggression.

The village was another half-day away and was called Hemlock Field (a foreboding name, I would later learn). Apparently, they had brought Bowmen attention upon themselves by wearing Watchmen insignia openly and patrolling their borders. Though it seems innocuous enough, our activities have must have set the larger Bowmen group on edge a bit and their scouts spotted this defiance and reported to their superiors. They were warned to stop owing Watchmen allegiance and that they would soon be visited by their commander.

Though small by surface standards, Hemlock Field turned out to be the largest settlement we’ve encountered since leaving Qataban. Somewhat more than a hundred people lived in several buildings in roughly circular roads. Farmlands, by the look of them. Nothing made it look like they would be willing, or able, to stand up to the Bowmen. Not after what we’d begun to see from them.

They were governed by a group of five elders, whom we were introduced to. The town had built on the ruins of an older one and the original was something of a Watchmen stronghold, when they still existed. So after hearing rumor of their resurgence, it inspired two of the villagers to “reconnect” to their heritage and don old Watchmen attire that had been passed down through families. Foolish, if you ask me, though the Nathaniel and his entourage seemed impressed. Human sentiment is strange.

After debating with ‘new’ Watchmen, Hershel somehow managed to convince them to evacuate their families to Three Cedars so that they would not present an easy target the Bowmen’s wrath. A note for for future: do no let Hershel do negotiations that you care about.

We all took hidden positions around the town center and split the the targets of pursuit among us, along with some others that martial experience. Ideally, the Bowmen would come and leave when they found their targets and families gone. But we couldn’t relay on that. And then they arrived.

Bowmen. A Death.
Upon arriving, they split into multiple groups, covering the lanes of exit. A robed figure stayed back with a group, blocking where they had entered. In to the town center walked one who was clearly in command. He was clad fully in black and red armor, the Bowman insignia blazed on the chest. He head was covered in tattoos. Though they held no specific meaning for me, they reminded me of a technique in Knif n’Karandras where a warrior was mystically bound to a mage. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

The village primarch, Elder Greene, awaited them in the square, with others further back. The tattooed figure, identified as Trask, demanded to know where the men were, and the Elder informed them they were gone. Trask looked down and mumbled something about ‘disappointing Bloodfire’. He insisted that an example still needed to be made and, in an instant, Elder Greene was dead. I saw Trask’s hand go to his sword, but barely saw the stroke. His weapon or person is magically enhanced to speed his movement. This man is a threat to us all.

I had to restrain my companion from attacking. Rushing for vengeance at this moment would get us all killed and make the Elder’s sacrifice mean nothing. Trask and the Bowmen backed out slowly, possibly looking for a counterattack, then left the way that they had come. Clearly in pain, the villagers were becoming hostile toward our presence now. Giving them time to sit with their sorrow, I grabbed Hershel and we tracked after the Bowmen to ensure that they were not leaving men behind and to see if we could locate their home base.

We tracked them as far as a marsh, when they paused, there was a flash of light, and they were gone. Clearly they have impressive resources. As we were preparing to return, there was a deep, rumbling growl from withing the marshlands. We saw nothing, but I must admit that it sounded large and reptilian.

With little to show for our efforts, we returned to the town. However, as we were about to enter, I saw sigils of some sort, carved into trees at the entrance. They had a glow about them that I’d seen before in the underdark. They were created so that they would be seen specifically by those for whom darkness does not impede vision.

We checked with the elders to see if they had made the marks. They professed no knowledge of them, but when I described their nature, they scoffed somewhat and said that the only creatures that had the ability to see like that in darkness here were the vorscha, and that it was lucky that they were just legends. As we companions explained that they were real, and that we had encountered them, the blood drained from the faces of those gathered. The elders followed up with old stories about how when marks like that appeared, the village where there were made shortly was wiped out.

Our original guide spoke up, indicating that a traveling merchant of some type was soon due in the village and that he may have more information as he tended to travel the entire basin, trading and gathering information. The trader’s name, Soggy Pete, did not inspire me with confidence.

Upon arrival, Soggy Pete appeared (and smelled) to have had trolls in near family tree. Despite his hygiene and slow speech, he was a solid source of information, as was claimed. He told stories of several other villages in the region had recently been wiped out. It had been explained away by natural disasters, disease, and the like. But now, with the vorscha being real, and with them having an alliance of some sort with the Bowmen, it was clear that this land was being brought to heel or emptied out. And that a power behind both the Bowmen and the vorscha was driving them.

This was enough for the town leaders to realize that they had to leave or lose the lives of everyone there. Of course, we offered them sanctuary within Lochaid. They accepted, still clearly displeased to be forced to leave at all. They placed much importance on their land and homes, but these things can be reclaimed and rebuilt; lives cannot. Hershel and Nathaniel felt it important to bring the part-troll as well, and Nathaniel managed to coerce him by handing over an enchanted robe he previously had claimed. So we set up in the town church for the evening, ready to move people out at the dawn.

During the night, Trask reappeared with a few others. I don’t know all who were up, but as I was only in reverie and not full human sleep, I was alert enough to detect them. They came only to the walls of the church, where Trask quietly threatened that moving was not enough to avoid their wrath and that would follow us even to Temple Rise, if that was made necessary. Then they were gone.

The next day, we worked to send the villagers off. They left in small groups, about an hour apart, and were shepherded to the treeline by townsfolk guards and we companions. There’s now an active train of people and supplies heading through Three Cedars to Lochaid. This would be the ideal time to strike against them. But I must leave that to others, as I’m striking ahead to try and alert our people and make preparations for the arrival of a town.

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