The World of DaNar

Two Meetings. A Choice.
Sorscha

As Seifer‘s group and my own got caught up on the events after our separation, I saw that Exelar was approaching. We weren’t the only ones aware of his arrival and he trailed various town elders behind him like clinging shadows.

The others began speaking to him as he neared, but I recognized the look of hunted prey in his eyes. Moving past him, I intercepted the elders and asked about how we resolve their concerns. It was quite the barrage, though I noted Exelar’s nod of thanks as I walked further into town. listening to their concerns. I quickly discovered that engaging one of them with another’s concern was the key. The wounded were sent or carried to the community building, where the priest of the sun had set up. With that resolved, it was mostly getting the new arrivals settled in unoccupied buildings.

Doing so, I noted that we’d been gone little more than a week, but there was a huge of amount of progress on the town buildings. Floors were repaired, ceilings were patched or replaced, nearly everything was livable. Save for the building that had collapsed under me, but even the rubble from it had been carried off for use in other repairs and new building layouts. Dwarven efficiency was always impressive; even more so when they were working with, instead of against, you. With everything under control for the moment, I turned back to rejoin my companions when the dark stone building caught my eye. We’d been neglecting it, but with so many people in the town now. we needed to figure it out soon. We’ll keep the people away from it for now.

I caught up as they started to walk up to the Temple Rise. Noticing that no one was sharing specifics of what had happened, I let the small talk go on uninterrupted. With the amount of people here now, it would do us well to keep sensitive information among each other. Coming around the bend, another building of concern came into view. I don’t know exactly what Xar’eth had done to resurrect the Spire, but it was certainly for his own reasons. One more concern for another time. Hopefully we won’t regret it.

As we walked through the Rise, there was more evidence of the rapid reconstruction. Reaching the namesake temple, Exelar waved us on to the chapel and headed upstairs, indicating he’d return shortly. Lingering behind the others, I caught sight of Hershel striding quickly toward him and whispering something that appeared urgent. Then Exelar went upstairs, Hershel into the chapel with a side look at me, and I followed in and took a seat.

What followed was mostly my those of us in the expedition bringing Exelar up to speed and what had passed since he was last with us. Until Seifer stepped up, that is. He brought out the Thyatian blade that he’d taken possession of. Exelar prayed over it, trying to get more information about the relic. He wavered for a moment before ending his chant. From his description, he heard something like the rest of us had in our dreams that night we spent in the ruins where the abomination struck.

After telling him of our experience there, he asked if we still had the soul gem that Caleb recovered from the troglodyte. I stood up and went to ward him, removing the wrapped gem from a pouch at my waist. He took it without hesitating and unwrapped it so that it’s upper half was exposed. It still glowed with a pale, sickly light. He clenched his hand around it and began his litany again. Suddenly, his face contorted, and a dark frost enveloped his hand began to creep up his arm.

To my shame, I hesitated. Seifer leaped forward to knock the gem from his hand, but a wave of force burst from it, knocking him to the floor among the benches. Maybe it shook me from my shock, because I moved up and went to place my own hand on the gem with Exelar’s, thinking that the will of two people could overcome it. But he forced an eye open, and shook his head to ward me off. I moved my hand back, but didn’t withdraw it. If it looked like he was going to falter, I was going to grab hold of it, regardless of his command. Luckily, it wasn’t necessary. He won out against it’s influence and the frost retreated. Though his hand looked a little worse for the wear. He asked if he could take it and make it safe and, of course I agreed.

After a short recovery, Exelar turned to the subject of the the towns, their management, and the Watchmen. Apparently, several of the refugees had officially joined the reborn organization and Gruendok was looking for volunteers to fill out the command positions. Maybe that’s unfair. Exelar was looking for people, for us, to join. Aside from the logistical needs, it all meant something to him and he wanted to want to be a part of it.

Caleb joined eagerly at the first offer. Seifer committed himself after a short confirmation of objectives and priorities. Nathaniel took the offer as well, after several demands that he be trusted and access to resources. Very human of him. Expecting that we we done with this portion of the meeting, I went to raise a new topic and noticed several sets of eyes were on me. Caught a bit off guard, I began to look around and found Gruendok there, asking me if I would join. He began making his appeals, but I barely heard him.

Although it was Exelar’s driving motivation, his belief that Heironeous had put him here to do this, I never pictured being a part of it. I was here to support him and this effort, but I was an outsider of outsiders. And now that I was being asked, I found myself…hesitant to do so. Despite being here for all of them, I wasn’t really one of them. I could still contribute without the title, I … I was panicking. No one’s perfect. Still, I didn’t think that I was the person they were looking for. Then I though about the refugees wanted, what they needed. I suppose it’s a little too late to be worried about committing myself. Besides, it’s what Exelar would want. If he’d admit it. I got out of my head and accepted. A short ceremony and a magic pin later and I’m the new spymaster. Honestly, this would be better suited to someone like Hershel, but there you have it.

Parlay with the Bowmen
With no time for rest, we had to leave in order to make it to Polga in time to meet with the Bowman, Meiko Sama. We had assumed the use of the Ironclad’s airship. Luckily when walked up to ask for it, they were willing to take us.

Dawn caught up to us on the way to the burnt husk of the town. We were there before the meeting time, so I decided to scout around. There’s no caution that shouldn’t be taken when the Bowmen are involved, even ‘honorable’ ones. The fires had died out, though a few hotspots remained here and there. The grays of the stone and ashes reminded me of some of the caverns of home. Minus the increasing sunlight. With nothing looking too out of place, I turned back to the group. And that’s when I heard the footsteps.

Meiko Sama and her entourage had arrived. The next twenty minutes consisted mostly of posturing and threats. However, there was a moment where she asked about Boris Cotton and the rescue of his daughter. Thanks to a slight miscommunication, she almost attacked us. There are only a few situations that would cause someone of her skill to act so foolishly, family prime among them.

Then, moments later, Nathaniel almost got us all killed by repeatedly insisting on casting a spell to show her “what the Bowmen had done.” Fool wizard, I wound up having to interrupt his spellcasting as he refused to stop provoking a confrontation. He glared daggers at me, but I won’t let him continue risking all our lives.

Ultimately all that we did was confirm that Meiko, along with Kroenen and his faction, held no love for the other battlegroups and held Trask in particular contempt. She also said that if we went after him at the Cascades, it would mean our deaths. Very enlightening. So now, we are left to decide, do we rush to the Cascades and attempt to take down Trask with no backup and no preparation, or gather our strength while he gathers his, and leave ourselves, or another village, open to attack.

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No Rest For The Weary
Journal entry of Exelar Vitarri

20170806_170008.pngFour days had passed at Temple Rise before the rest of my companions rejoined me and Xer’oth. In that span of time the progress made here and at Lochaid have been impressive, several buildings have been made livable thanks in most part to the dwarves work. The work of the refugees hasn’t gone unnoticed either, nor has the strength of Bolk. Amongst all the work being done a pure white destrier appeared like it was sent by Heironius himself and my connection with the animal was immediate.

Several of the guards have reported strange occurrences around the Spire, and Xer’oth has been spooking people when he has been spotted wandering at night. The worst part had been his interest in that dark, ominous building in Lochaid, which everyone else avoids and I unfortunately haven’t had the time to investigate further. Maybe the heightened alert level around town has everybody on edge, which almost spelled doom when the airship with the Ironclad arrived unannounced.

If not for the fortuitous arrival of Sorscha with some refugees from Three Cedars there might been trouble. The rest of them arrived shortly after led by Sir Seifer. Luckily the repairs should afford us the accommodations needed for them. Instantly I became the most needed person in town, but getting the refugees settled was the first order of business. As that was being taken care of we started back to Temple Rise so they could update me on their progress since we parted. I pulled aside Hershel and asked him to see what he could find out about the Spire.

We stopped and invited Xer’oth to join us on the way. Upon our arrival at the Temple I sent them ahead so Sir Seifer could place his prisoner in a cell and I could have the acolytes bring them food and drink while I made my way into my office. Using the magical table in there to make sure no-one snuck in during the confusion, I was alarmed to discover the Spire blinking red and purple. Making my way down to my companions coincided with Hershels arrival upon which he pulled me aside to inform me that a drow who self identified as a cousin of Xer’oth was inside the Spire and appeared to be potentially dangerous.

While I thought on that the rest of the group caught me up on their travels since we parted last. Sir Seifer brought out Dark Sister, the sword he had recovered, and while praying over it trying to get information on it I was met with a dark vision and foreboding voice. Though the words were difficult to make out they seemed to give a warning, the vision and words had been felt by the others when they had touched the sword and the soul gem. Sorcha had recovered a gem from a Trog shaman, and caused the same vision as the sword, that started to freeze my arm upon contact. Siefer was tossed aside when trying to knock the gem from my hand, but my willpower was strong enough to fight against the chaos of the gem.

With the addition of some of the refugees joining the Watchmen it was time to see if any of my companions would officially join the cause. Gruendok put forth a strong argument for Seifer, Sorscha, and Nathaniel to join along with Caleb who had unofficially joined. Seifer was the first to accept followed by Nathaniel and finally Sorscha. Needing a trusted cabinet I asked Sorscha to become Eye of the Watch (Spymaster), Seifer accepted the Marshall of the Army position, and Gruendok took the Quartermaster position. The positions came with an magic pins/clasps that were left from the previous Watchmen.

The next order of business was the meeting with Meiko Sama, a meeting we all felt was necessary. I sent the acolytes to ready the horses, as time was short and we still had to see if permanently fixing the Ironclads flying vessel was possible. Before our departure though I had to discuss the new visitor at the Spire with Xer’oth. As everyone else departed we went to my office where i confronted him with the knowledge of his guest. He assured me though he could be dangerous in his present state of mind we were presently safe. Feeling like he was choosing his words carefully I let him know that the trust I was placing in him wasn’t protected by his exact wording but his and his cousins actions.

After his departure I informed Gruendok of the new drow in the Spire, so he wouldn’t be caught unaware. I made my way to Lochaid to meet my companions and finally had a chance to meet with the Ironclad. They readily agreed to help us get to our meeting and between Nathaniel and I combining our magic to mend the damage and Xer’oth using his to power it we arrived at Polga in time.

Meiko Sama arrived shortly after with some companions and a tense conversation began. A slight misunderstanding about the events in Carrion Hill got us off to a bad start. But when that was cleared up she answered all our questions truthfully as far as I could tell as she has no love for Trask, nor did Kroenen. They were set to meet up with Trask in a couple of days in the Cascades, but she couldn’t guarantee either her or Kroenen would betray him and side with us. I told her we planned on killing him and they may be forced to make that decision. She warned Seifer that he was on a path that could lead to his death if he chose to call out Trask. Nathaniel wanted to cast a spell and show the carnage left at Three Cedars by Trask to her, but ultimately didn’t due to the tension that that would be caused by him casting a spell. As we parted ways we all had decisions to make, is now the time to strike at Trask or wait for a better time…

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Leaving Carrion Hill. Burning Cedars.
Sorscha

I reluctantly put up the records that I had been examining to head back to the tavern for my turn at the fittings. On the way out, I noticed Seifer being harangued by the librarian. I wasn’t aware that he was headed here. I wonder what he was looking up.

The fitting went fairly well, and most important, quickly. I’ll have to pay extra for the fabric I chose, but if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right. By the time that I was done, the light was starting to fade. The others should be returning soon, so I had Olaf set up the back room and ordered food while waiting for the others to show up. Unexpectedly, Cotton showed up, as well.

Hershel was there first. He made his usual, very specific order with Olaf and sat down. With a wry look on his face, he asked how the fitting went. I must be growing used to him, because I didn’t punch him in throat. He just got a glare over a glass of brandy that I got from Olaf. I held the stare just long enough for him to look away as the others started to pour into the room.

Hershel started catching everyone up. Apparently he spoke further with the Crow Commander, Thorne and found out that there was something of a state dinner (if you can call it that in a place like this). He suggested that we put off the party plan until then so that we could use the time to check in on Three Cedars. He seems to have taken to heart the threat that Trask had made. And well he should. Trask is a legitimate threat and Hershel had apparently egged him on further after chasing him down to the docks.

I assumed we’d be catching a boat out to Angler’s Cove to start back to the Cedars until Nathaniel spoke up. He was looking haggard and had apparently been with the Ironclad all day working on their sky skiff. The ship itself was normal, if reinforced, but it’s ability to fly sounded entirely magic-driven. Nathaniel had burned himself out for the day pouring his energy into the drives to recharge them. I’ve seen similar efforts in mages college. The upside is that the ship is mobile again and the Ironclad have agreed to transport us.

It turns out that Seifer was at the archives researching information about Thyatian relics. It sounds like he didn’t find exactly what he was looking for. The sword that he recovered from the ruins where we found the Ironclad was still wrapped and bound at his back. I haven’t seen him use it yet. If that sword is becoming an issue, it should be talked about. We’ll leave it for now.

Finally, I shared what I had learned about the origins of the Watchmen and their founding by the breakaway Dragon Battle Group of the Bowmen. Cotton’s reaction appeared to confirm the knowledge and he said that if true, it explained several things about the lost company and some historical loose threads in the Bowmen history.

As Cotton talked, I noticed that Hershel wasn’t at the table any more. Looking out the doorway, I saw people moving past. Hershel was saying something to a man sitting at the bar. No, not just that, he had a blade to his back. In an instant, Hershel started to move, but the man was spinning around and drawing his weapon, as fast as I’d ever seen. Like Trask did in Hemlock Fields. He wasn’t going to be fast enough.

Just as I started getting up, one of Olaf’s men crashed into him and Hershel drove the knife into his back. Olaf saw me and nodded, signalling that I should sit stay put. The body was taken upstairs, and after several minutes, Hershel returned. Apparently this was one of Trask’s men, along with a companion that escaped into the night. It’s good that we have a defended location, but it emphasized our need to leave first thing in morning and get to Three Cedars.

Aloft
First thing in the morning, we followed Nathaniel to a rooftop designated by the Ironclad. Coming up the walkway, there was the skiff, floating off the side of the building. Moored with a line, it had a walkway hung from the ship to the roof. Without hesitation, we all headed toward it.

I was second to last to board, with only Pete behind me. I turned to help Pete over after I was past the gunwale, when several inches of steel erupted from his chest. Pete collapsed and we dragged him into the ship to see a Bowmen standing on the roof wielding a bloodied blade. Without a thought, I leapt from the boat and struck him in the cheat with a kick.

I heard a twang as Hershel followed up with a bowshot that sent an arrow through the Bowman’s leg. To my surprise, Caleb and Wulfgar dropped down and took swings, as well. Then the air began to crackle and a stroke of electricity lanced from the ship and sent the Bowman reeling. He quickly drank a vial that he pulled from his belt and immediately stood straighter. Channeling my rage at what had been done, I charged him. Dodging his sword strikes, I got inside his guard. My first strike overextended his elbow and knocked his sword arm up, My second drove into his now exposed side. Ribs cracked, a ling ruptured, and he fell to the rooftop.

Without pause, I rifled through his things, looking for another potion. After what seemed forever, I found one hidden in his belt. Turning toward the ship that was drifting away, I pulled out shadows around me and appeared on the deck next to the prone form of Pete. TIlting his head back, I broke the vial open and poured it down his throat. Pete began to cough and I saw the hole in his chest start to mend. He’d need to recover, but he’d live. The others were tossing ropes to pull the ship back toward the roof. Someone asked where I was wounded. “It’s not my blood.”

Return to the Cedars
The trip back to Three Cedars continued. Pete was breathing normally. It was an entirely different feeling, flying in an open sky. I’d had flying magic set on me before, but that always done through tunnels and caverns. This…this was not the same experience. And then my reverie was broken.

Caleb, Wulfgar, and Seifer were bellowing at one another in the deck cabin. I had no idea what was going on, but there was the subtle thrum of power in the air. By the time that I had walked around to where I could see in, they had all calmed down. But Seifer had the Thyatian sword out and balanced in his hand. If what I think happened is correct, then that is a powerful sword, indeed.

The sky darkened as we made progress to our destination. Here and there on the ground, you could begin to make out campfires, bonfires, and the like. I believe I saw the black and grey smudge that was Polga, somehow still with guttering flames. Then in the distance, a brighter light rose over the treeline. The Cedars were aflame.

All three of the big trees were burning. As we approached, one them – the first that was lit, clearly – cracked in the heat and collapsed into the canopy. We pulled in closer to the ground and dropped ropes. Hershel fired an arrow at something on the ground and then disappeared. A new trick, it seems. Nathaniel muttered words of magic and fly to the ground. I leaped off and rode the shadows to ground.

Seifer immediately drew his icy blade and went about dousing fires. There were several villagers hidden in the higher reaches of the remaining two trees. As Seifer doused the flames, we retrieved them from on high and gathered them in the town square. We confirmed that two of the three elders had been killed and strung up. Only Von Holt was still alive, but in no shape to exert himself. As we looked around for other survivors and prepared to evacuate them to Lochaid, we noticed that there were no children.

Speaking to one the villagers, they had sent the children away for safety. Hershel had purchased messaging ravens and they had arrived 20 minutes before the attack and so the children were taken away with two protectors. Taken away, to the goblin caves.

I found Seifer and let him know that I was heading to the caves to get the children back. He was going to finish organizing the villagers and get them out of the area and into Lochaid. Hershel and Nathaniel both indicated that they would accompany me. The two of flew as I ran and we headed out of the smoking village.

As we reached the bend where the Thyani woman and her wagon had been, we found that she was still there. And she had stopped the children and their escorts from going any further, thank the dark lady. Before I speak with them, Nathaniel indicated that a group of strange looking goblins was approaching us from the direction of the caverns. Leaving the children with the Thyani, I took the village woman and made a defensive line. Nathaniel and Hershel took up flanking positions in the trees.

As the goblins approached, I could see that they were…wrong. Perhaps they had been shaped by the elder one in the caverns. From the trees rained deadly arrows and then an exploding ball of flame that enveloped most of the goblins. Those that survived were dispatched by the villagers and myself. We turned back to gather the children. And it was time that I made an apology.

The Thyani was gracious enough, but still distant. I suppose I could understand that. As we were preparing to leave, we told her that she was welcome to join us back at Lochaid where we could provide some degree of protection. She declined, but after a moment of hesitation, indicated that she could show us a way back to the town that would circle around any remaining Bowmen and get us back quicker than normal. She made it clear that, though she bore us – me – no ill will, she did this not for us but for the children.

This being acknowledge, she rummaged in wagon a bit before returning and guiding us around the bend. There, as if it had been all the time, was a path off of the road that none of us had seen. She said that we should take it and it would get us back to Lochaid. True to her word, before I knew it, we were walking out of the treeline into Lochaid. The Thyani was nowhere to be seen.

After confirming that we were who we were with an alert line of guards, I asked after the others. They hadn’t returned yet, so I started down the main road to Three Cedars. Within 15 minutes, I ran into Seifer and the villagers, who were more than a bit confused about how I got ahead of them.

As we regathered in the town square, Seifer brought us up to speed. He had encountered a group of Bowmen that were loyal to Kroenen. In addition to gettign intentional injuries to pass muster, they had killed their comrades that were loyal to Trask and provided Seifer with information. They said that Trask was headed to the Cascades to rendezvous with Hansen. He would be there in two days and would have Hansen’s forces replenished in another 3 days after that. At that point, they could be coming for us. We have decisions to make.

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The Ignition of hope
Ser Seifer's journal

Much has transpired since I last wrote. The overwhelming events of recent have set me on a path that is surely to lead me to my death, or to redemption. Destiny it seems has shown me where i am to go and who I am to be on this path with.

I feel I have left out quite a lot in my journal entries of late, so a quick summary might be in order. We left Carrion Hill in search of The Iron clad. We located them but once again Nathaniel Brommson and his magic has caused yet again more problems. He accidentally summoned a horror from beyond the veil. A black tentacled abomination that engulfed troglodyte and troll alike. Later that night, the Abomination reappeared and caused chaos and carnage to us and the Iron Clad. With a huge combined effort, we slew the monster. Returning to Carrion Hill with new allies, new direction, and an artifact from ancient Thyasia, we were finally onto something.

Our attentions would soon be shifted. As we approached the gates of Carrion Hill, The Bowmen and The Crows were in a stand off. Trask! Of all the Bowmen that could have showed up to cause problems, of course it would be Trask. My companions seem to understand my feeling towards this man in particular. I must not be very good at subtlety. Trask threatened, The crows stood firm, and we chose our side and knew a war was coming. We needed to pursue these leads we had. We also needed to keep up pressure on the bowmen and dwindle their numbers. None of that would happen because Trask had put a threat on Three Cedars and Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel) was very concerned. How are we going to make it to Three Cedars in a quick time? How are we going to beat Trask? Would he march all the way to Lochaid ?

The Iron Clad’s airship had to be repaired. It was the only way to accomplish what we needed, but were we capable of doing it? I knew Trask was going to have to be dealt with in a completely different way than anyone other opponent i have faced. I needed to train and i needed a counter to his combat style. I know i am not fast enough to beat him to a draw but hopefully i can catch him off guard and counter with a new style. Having both Black Ice and the Dark Sister, I could use them in tandem and have a fighting style that would surprise opponents. I needed to learn more on the artifacts from the old empire, the library was my next destination.

Apparently i was not the only one seeking knowledge. Not any surprise however, Sorscha was already in the library, peering through the same section of tomes i was guided to. Hopefully together, we could uncover more knowledge about our enemy and the area and help our cause. Although i am not as educated as others, as a knight and and elf i have the knowledge of ages and experience on my side. My companions might be able to see other information that i missed so i will bring what i have discovered back and inform them. Off to check in with Centurion Fisk and the Iron Clad and see if the airship can be repaired.

Much to my surprise, Nathaniel Brommson was already working on the Iron Clad ship and had the engine running. I was of no help to the mage but I could help with the physical labor in repairing the hull. After completion of the ship we all gathered at the Mucky Duck and discuss our next plan of action and where to go next. Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel) was very determined to go to Three Cedars and see if Trask was or had attacked the town as he threatened. My time in the library had unveiled more information on the Watchmen’s Keep and it was on the southern boarder of the lake. Both destinations would take us south of Carrion Hill so we decided to go to Three Cedars the fastest possibly way, by airship.

Never before have i seen anything as magnificent or dangerous as this vessel in the air. Surely this would change the game in which we played. The Bowmen would not have dealt with something of this scale before. Before we even could finish boarding the vessel, Soggy Pete was struck with a blade through his chest. Like a lightning strick, Sorscha was upon the man and dealing punishing blows with her fists. Caleb, Wulfgar, and I leapt from the skiff to engage the enemy. I pulled pete onto the skiff and drew my blades waiting for my opportunity. Sadly my companions are well versed in the art of killing, and before i could strike, Caleb and Wulgar had opened the man up, and Sorscha had dealt a blow so destructive it sunk the man deep into the roof of the building. Coughing and spitting blood, the Bowmen threw insults and empty threats. I had heard enough, and knocked the man unconscious, the Bowmen was too badly injured and my blow sent him into the eternal slumber.

As we flew through the clear night sky, the darkness was shattered by a blazing light on the horizon. Our fears had been realized and Three Cedars was burning. Trask was true to his threat and had attacked the town and set everything on fire. Quickly we all went into action and recovery. I drew Black Ice and leapt from the ship using Nathaniel’s ring to glide down to the base of the trees. Then i set to work extinguishing the fires. Searching for survivors as i went, my heart sank as body after body of our brothers and sisters laid dead on the ground. Eldars hung from the tree branches, warriors thrown from the balconies. It was a massacre.

Sorscha had come to me and said that the children were sent north to escape. with fear and worry in her eyes she left with Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel) and Nathaniel Brommson, I do not know what was to the north that she was desperately trying to get to the children before they encountered it. My job was to secure the town and provident the fires from spreading and consuming this area. I did what i was able to then set off after Caleb, Wulgar and the survivors that were headed for the Ruins of Lochaid. I had found a horse that was scared and left in the wreckage. Mounting the frightened beast i sped off to get in front of the group and look ahead to see what was before us.

Up the road, figures with torches blocked the path. The Bowmen were set to stop us from getting home and leave no survivors. I approached cautiously and the two men in the road stopped me and wanted to talk. They explained to me that they were from Vladimir Kroenen and had disposed of Trask’s men in order to talk with us. They told me of Trask’s plans and that he was to rendezvous with Aldric Hansen in the Cascade and would be at full strength in 5 days and he would come to crush us. I arranged a deal to meet with Meiko Sama in Polga the following day. Much to my disgust, I scarred one man to appear a battle took place and took the other as “prisoner” to arrange a way of communication between us and Kroenen.

Finally arriving at Lochaid, Sorscha and the children had beaten us back but how. Exelar Vitarri must have my report and he needs to be the one that arranges this deal.

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Boiling Over
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

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Booking Passage

We decided to rest for what remained of the night in the relative safety of the Ruins of Argaath. Ser Seifer was badly hurt, suffering some minor skin burns from the electric shock, and a couple deep gashes across his chest from where the abomination’s teeth had bit into him upon swallowing. I could feel the skin around my neck beginning to bruise, and my throat still felt raw from the tentacle’s throttling. Sorscha, being none the worse for wear and ready to stand vigil all night if needed, volunteered to watch the camp while some of us took our rest. Another grey dream came in the night; this time I was able to piece together some of the words spoken by the faceless entity in the fog: “Awoke… Arrival… Retribution… Eternal… You… Dominion”. I know not what it means, but I will think on it.

I woke in the morning, some hours after sunrise. The Ironclad paced around, looking irritably about the campsite; they had likely been ready to travel at daybreak. I rose from my bed of stone, still sore from the fight the night before. We met up with Pete to discuss our options for returning to Carrion Hill. After a short discussion, we found that we had only two viable options open to us. We could take an ancient Thyatian road west, skirting the outer edges of Bowman territory to loop our way around to Angler’s Cove; such would likely put us within striking distance of one or more Bowman troops. Or, we could go back to the spot where we had departed when we booked passage from Carrion Hill, and wait there for the chance passing of another fishing ship that might be willing to carry us back to the Boil. Had we not been so battle-weary, I would have preferred the former option, because it might give us the chance to cut off Hansen before he could re-supply the numbers his platoon had lost at Lochaid .

The walk back to our original departure point was miserable, filled with mosquitoes and stirges and the rumblings of swamp denizens. When it came time to camp for the night, the party was almost resigned to look for what little dry land we could to sleep on, as we had on our way to the ruins. Nathaniel surprised everyone by summoning up a stone house. We all got a good night’s rest, taking turn on watch shifts. The next day we made it the rest of the way back to our departure point, and there we waited… and waited… and waited. Just before sundown, a fishing boat came in sight.

The boat’s occupants were hurrying back toward the Boil; likely they didn’t want to be stuck out on the water when night fell. Nathaniel was the first to speak to them, announcing that we were travellers in alliance with the Watchmen, and that we needed to book passage back to Carrion Hill. The Ironclad commander called out as well, adding his own organization’s name, and promising to pay them for a ride back. The fishermen argued for some time, but ultimately came to our aid.

On our way back to the Boil, a young half-elf by the name of Nathar Arrista began to speak with Nathaniel and Caleb about the Watchmen. Apparently, Nathar had been saved by the Watchmen some years ago, when a force of troglodytes led an attack on his hometown of Angler’s Cove. He asked questions of the current state of the Watchmen, his voice full of anticipation and wonder. We asked him if he would like to help the Watchmen by keeping his ear open for any news of the Bowmen, and he agreed. Whenever we find ourselves in Carrion Hill, we should check with Nathar for updates on what he may have heard.

Bowman Trouble

During our discussions with the fishermen, we found that the tensions against the Bowmen in Carrion Hill were mounting. Much of the city council were calling for the Bowmen to be banned from the city, due to their apparent alliance with troglodytes. I asked which of the council were on the side of the Bowmen in this dispute, and was given the name Allistair Brandall. Apparently he and some groups of Crows are Bowman allies. I noted the name, and resolved to find a way to remove the man from power. To that end, I inquired where Brandall might be found; I was told he frequented a high-class establishment called “The Ivory Crown”.

We docked in the Tangle, and began walking through the city to the gates which led to the Crown. As we moved, there were mutters to either side of us; excited whispers of “Bowmen” and “Trask”. I slipped away silently so my companions could keep moving without pause, and went to one of the groups to ask about the Bowmen they spoke of. They told me that there was a force of twenty at the gates, led by Trask. They were demanding entry to the Crown, and were looking to do violence. There was also a secondary group in the southern end of the Tangle who were meant to come and join the group at the gates once the fighting started. I hurried to catch up with Sorscha and the others, and informed them of the trouble just before they came within sight of the city gates.

Pausing to discuss strategy, we decided that it would be best for the Ironclad, along with Ser Siefer, to wait in a nearby tavern called the Bull & Horn until we sent word for them. Nathaniel turned Sorscha invisible, then followed Seifer and the Ironclad. I began to move up toward the group of Bowmen, inconspicuously weaving between crowds of people gathered around the edges of the street, so that I could hear the heated argument between Trask and a Crow captain at the gates.

Trask’s grating voice seethed as he spoke to the captain, who he identified as “Thorne”, talking about the injustice of being barred from the city. How ungrateful Carrion Hill must be of the “protection” provided by the Bowmen (a veiled threat if ever I had heard one). He continued on listing perceived slights as he stepped closer to Thorne, his left hand on the sheath of his blade, just as it had been before he murdered High Elder Johnston Greene. Thorne would soon have his throat opened from ear to ear, and he wouldn’t even see it coming.

I needed to warn the captain, but did not want to draw attention to myself; so I used the crowd.
“Is that… does Trask have his hand on his sword, there?” I whispered, frantically, to the group.
“… Nah, look; ’is left ‘and’s on the sheaf. Clearly the man fights right-’anded. Although…:”
“Yes, look his thumb is on the hilt there. I have seen this before; he means to pop the sword loose with his left, and slash out using his right before Thorne even sees the move!”
Thus the conversation continued, ramping up in excitement until it had folk running from my group to the next, and the next… The commotion worked just as I had hoped; the Bowmen behind Trask began to look around nervously at the agitated crowd.

I walked calmly behind one of the people moving from my group up the street toward Trask’s men. My thought was that if I could get close behind the Bowmen, I might be able to turn invisible and get a shot off at the wall such that it would look like they had begun to fire on the Crows. Hopefully, that would catch Trask off-guard and he would have a moment of distraction wherein Thorne could take a step back into safety. If the first shot was fired by the Bowmen, and the Crows started attacking before they were prepared, perhaps the fight would go in our favor, and we would be able to wipe out Trask and his men. I began reaching for my bow with my right hand, while my left moved toward the quiver on my hip.

An unseen hand grabbed my right arm, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from yelling out. Sorscha’s voice whispered into my ear, “Do not attack, fool! If we start a fight here, many innocent lives will be lost. Most of us will likely die as well.” I looked over my shoulder, nodded reluctantly, and released my grip on my bow. The drow woman whispered in a harsh, condescending tone, “I am going to retrieve the Ironclad. I will be back soon. Don’t. Start. Anything.”

Moments after Sorscha left, Trask began to step up his threats and I considered my plan again. Captain Thorne took a step back, out of the reach of Trask’s sword, and drew his weapon, answering the challenge. His second, Sergeant Torquil, drew his own weapon, a double-headed greataxe whose edges gleamed in the torchlight from the gate. Trask yelled something about not caring how many Crows he had to kill, and gave command to his own second to cut off Torquil’s head as he readied himself to strike. At the sight of weapons being drawn, I had gone for my bow again, but I stopped when I noticed something in the tone of Trask’s voice, and the movement of he and his men. He was clearly enraged, but his voice sounded a little too zealous; he was playing up his anger. And his men were tensed and ready to fight, but they were also clearly waiting for the Crows to make the first move. He wanted to be attacked.

The heavy, rhythmic clank of iron-shod feet rose steadily from the lane behind me, and I turned to see the Ironclad and Ser Seifer advancing toward the Bowmen. They stopped about twenty feet from the edge of Trask’s men, and Centurion Frissk called out to the Crows, declaring the Ironclad’s allegiance to Carrion Hill, and their willingness to stand in solidarity to face down this Bowman threat on the city. Seifer saw Trask, and his hand went to his sword. I quickly moved to speak with him, telling him that attacking now was what Trask wanted; the result would likely be many innocent lives lost, and if he was looking to start a fight, the odds were that he had the ability to finish it. The knight looked less than convinced.

The sound of two more sets of iron-clad boots, one so heavy that it shook the ground, came from the other side of the wall. The gate opened inward, and Lance Corporal Wallace emerged, eclipsed shortly thereafter by the massive suit of living iron, Keldoron. Trask scanned the scene, calculating; then his eyes tracked over my position and his expression went suddenly cold. He glared at me, and at the Ironclad, as he ordered his men to stand down. Bellowing more threats about how “this is not over” and “the Bowmen will remember this offense,” Trask marched his men toward us. He stopped briefly in front of me to throw curses, insults, and ever more threats in my face. I gave him a flat stare.

As he turned to leave, I responded “Tuck your tail and run, dog.”
He turned, staring daggers at me, “Funny to hear that, coming from a yellow-skinned coward.”
“Ooh. Yellow. Strong words,” I said, voice dripping with sarcasm.
He smirked, “Awfully brave of you, hiding your head while Greene paid for the sins of the Watchmen with his blood.”
I looked on, not sure what to say. Trask left, and I lamented that my words hadn’t sparked more of a response. Surely next time we meet, the Bowman Lieutenant will want me dead… or worse.

I followed fifty paces or so behind the Bowmen as they left, both to make sure they did so without killing anybody, and to be there to attack if they struck the first blow against Carrion Hill. Coming around a corner, I found that Trask had discovered Caleb and Wulfgar, near a bridge leading to the southern portion of the Tangle. Five Bowmen each held my companions, and they looked ready to do violence. Glancing to the few Crows who were also following the Bowmen out of town, I drew by longbow and nocked a magical arrow, “I trust the city guard sees the Bowmen assaulting my comrades, there!” Trask grimaced at me, and ordered his men to let Nathaniel’s bodyguards go. His voice rasped like an axe to a grindstone, “Like Three Cedars, do ya?” Then he turned and walked off.

We returned to the gates where stood Captain Thorne, talking with the Ironclad. He thanked us for helping the guards stand up to the Bowmen, and as we walked past the gates into the Crown, he followed along, inquiring as to where we would stay the night. We told him he could meet us at the Mucky Duck, and he departed. Nathaniel then began to relate to us a revelation he had about Trask’s robed companion. It appears that his garb is of the same make as that which Xar’eth found at the Spire. That, taken together with the demon-head tattoo on Trask’s skull is fairly damning. Then there’s the issue of how atrazine knew we were at Hemlock Field even though he never saw us directly. We need answers from the Drow, and soon.

Upon reaching the Duck I asked the tavern-keeper if there were baths available, hearing a slight feminine echo to my own voice. As the tavern-keeper left to ready the bath, I glanced to my left and met Sorscha’s eyes for a brief moment. She broke the stare, looking discomfited, and called after him “Separate rooms, please!”

Political Intrigue

I came downstairs feeling clean and more relaxed than I had in weeks, despite the confrontation with the Bowmen. Captain Thorne entered the tavern, along with a group of plain-clothed men who moved in too disciplined a manner to be commoners. Presently the tavern was emptied of most of its occupants, and the plain-clothed men occupied the tables in their place. Thorne sat at the bar with our party, and discussions began as we waited to sup.

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Return to Carrion Hill. Bowmen.
Sorscha

After a long night, it was something of a miracle that we all woke to see the dawn. It’s regrettable that the Ironclad are not able to say the same.

After the chaos thing was felled and the troglodytes were killed or driven off, we gathered around the body of the changeling. I missed the bulk of the conversation that followed about it. If I’m being honest, I was blaming myself for not spotting the thing as an impostor when it drew my attention earlier in the night. If I’d just caught it sooner when it was hiding the body, if I’d just confronted the lieutenant, if, if, if. Self-recrimination would get me nowhere and so I snapped back to attention to hear Seifer mention something about the doppelganger and ‘the Consortium’. We’ll all need to go over that later.

For now, all that we can do is get rest for tomorrow. Seifer survived, but just barely. Several others are in better, but not ideal, form. It will need to be a careful trip back to Carrion Hill. I intended to continue my watch the rest of the night, same as before. The Ironclad appeared to be re-arranging their own watch. As my companions went to return to their bedrolls, I grabbed another brand from the fire and climbed the steps to the wall and back to the abominations body. In the short time since it’s death, it had already begun to desiccate. Pulling my cloak around my face, I set fire to the corpse and stood upwind. Despite being covered in slime and swamp water minutes ago, it took light and burned to an oily patch of water and a smudge in the air quickly.

With dawn came the realization that we didn’t have a way back to the town. The fisherman we hired was a one-way trip. Consulting with Soggy Pete, we had two options. The first was to trek back to where we were dropped off and hope to catch another fisherman trawling through the primary fishing grounds. The other was that Pete knew of an old highroad that we could walk. The highroad was old, sunken in some places, and would take us away from Carrion Hill, toward Anglers Cove. I also went close to Bowmen territory. Considering the state of the company and the fact that we needed to make sure that the Ironclad got back to their companions, the decision was made to risk waiting on passing fishermen.

Luck, and some forethought from Nathaniel, saw us through the that day and the night that we were forced to spend in the rough. Nothing visited us from the swamp and a magically created bunkhouse saw everyone getting better rest. Half that day brought us to the edge of open water, not far from where we first landed. Anticipating another night in the swamp, we caught sight of a boat toward the end of the day. After calling out to them, there ensued something of argument between the fisherman, I assume about the wisdom of taking on armed strangers in the middle of a swamp. Ultimately, identifying ourselves as Watchmen out of Temple Rise and Ironclad won out, and we had a ride back.

Bowmen at the Gates
We tied off at the docks shortly ahead of sunset. Caleb had been talking with one of the fisherman, apparently he had been living at Anglers Cove when the previous incarnation of the Watchmen came to their aid. He dedicated to being a source of information whenever we came through Carrion Hill in the future. As we stepped onto the dock and made our way up toward the gates, there a significant amount of activity and I caught several mentions of Bowmen. And we were having such a nice day.

In a bit of intuitive communication, Hershel broke off to comb the crowd and see what additional info he could gather. The Ironclad commander began to ask why and turn Hershel’s way, but to his credit, he caught my glance and returned to our path forward. I slowed out pace a bit to give him time. We were just about to round the last corner, where we’d have a direct sight line of the gates, when Hershel returned with the news. Bowmen were at the gate ahead and Trask was with them.

I directed us off the main road and into a small tavern before we rounded that corner. Hershel and I decided to scout forward while the others remained here. Hershel walked through the crowd, group to group, to get closer. As my appearance was a but more notable, I had Nathaniel drape me in invisibility and I skirted my way up along the side buildings as close as I dared. It was indeed Trask and he, with his men, was facing off against a Crow commander and his forces. Apparently the town council had come to a decision and had ejected the Bowmen from their former residence and from entering the walls going forward. I won’t deny the sense of satisfaction I felt that our gambit had worked.

I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and saw that Hershel was going to draw his bow. He was going to try and trigger the fight that was so obviously at a boil. If he did, innocents would be hurt or killed, we would be have a responsibility in it, and we’d be exposed to Trask. Still invisible, I moved around behind him and laid my hand on the one he was using to draw the bow. He startled at first, until I whispered that he mustn’t do what he was starting to. He seemed less than convinced, but stayed his hand. Looking back up at the gate, Trask was face to face with the Crow. In an instant, I realized that Trask was trying to draw them out; to get them to make the first move. Maybe we could give him something else to have to consider.

Telling Hershel to hold on, I made my way back to the tavern to speak to the Ironclad. They weren’t known to be associates of ours, but were known to be adversarial with the Bowmen, so they could advance up and throw a new factor into the mix. Seifer was determined to go with them, but I don’t think that he had been counted as one of us yet, so I didn’t try to stop him. Then I went to talk to Nathaniel. Caleb was having a hard time holding back from marching out there and sparking the tinder, as Hershel almost did. Luckily, after a short talk, Nathaniel determined that the additional Bowmen down on one of the docks could cause trouble if worse came to worse and so decided to take Caleb and Wulfgar down toward the area, to prepare to block their progress, if necessary.

Moving back outside, it was clear that the Ironclad had made an impact. I’m didn’t hear the entirety of what was said, but a row of Bowmen had turned away from the wall to face them, Crows on the walls had nocked and drawn arrows, and Hershel was no where to be seen. Additionally, Seifer’s friends from the airship had come from in the city and were at the back of the Crows there. I moved back to my former hiding place in case this whole situation broke down. Tension built and the back and forth at the gate continued. Finally, Trask called his men around, began to leave, but said to any that would listen that this wasn’t over. At least it was over for today, with everyone alive. Shortly thereafter, Nathaniel and the others came back. Apparently Trask and his entourage had found them. They let them go, but now he’s got a clue that we were involved. I suppose that if something had to go off track, this was the best option.

Back to the Duck
As we gathered back at the gate, the Crow commander, Thorn, thanked us for what we did (and, I assume, for what we didn’t do). He also escorted us through the gate and arranged a small escort as we headed to the Mucky Duck. Apparently, the decision around expelling the Bowmen had surfaced some political tensions. And it appears that the tavern we’ve been frequenting is the center of coordination for one side. A short talk with the Crow revealed that the Bowmen had obtained the loyalty of several officials and Crows, and this was the primary reason that the vote to remove the Bowmen from the city was as close as it was. He also offered to sell the former Bowmen compound to the Watchmen. We couldn’t provide a solid answer, but promised to take the offer to Exelar. I suspect that he will want to take it. Aside from providing us a new footing, one within the basin, it would also begin to re-establish his Watchmen as an integral part of the town and an influence across the Ruin. In short, a significant step forward.

After a hot bath, a change of clothes, and a meal, Hershel spoke more with Commander Thorn about the political divide here. I don’t know precisely what was said, but Hershel decided that he is going to try to bluff his way into a social event being held by people of influence that voted to keep the Bowmen in town. Somehow, as people kept jumping in with ideas, this has evolved into a production, with Caleb posing as a dignitary of some kind, most of the others as advisers, servants, or bodyguards, and myself as the “exotic escort”. Joy of joys, it’s the eld’chalok alure all over again. All least I know how to dress.

Now that we were publicly on the side of The Resistance (something I wasn’t previously aware of), Olaf insisted on having as many services as possible brought to us, at the Duck, instead of going out for them. This place really is turning into home. In the morning. We had a few hours before the tailors could arrive, so I went for a walk. In the nights conversations, I learned that that there was a hall of records here and I was curious. Reaching the building, I was helped finding records of the previous incarnation of the Watchmen being here. Or begin set up here, it wasn’t clear.

Either way, I found a set of records that interested me. The first was of an Archibald Hejywould entering the city with a group called the Guardsmen. He was, or had been formerly, a member of something called the Kara Kara Boulimaan; the Bowmen. Two years later, there was a record of an Archibald Heywood forming an organization called Watchmen. And finally, a related record held information about the Kara Kara Boulimaan that entered the town. Apparently they were a militia gathered from towns and villages across the region. This particular group had become disillusioned with their former employers and had arrived to take residence in Carrion Hill. The group was called the Company of Dragons.

Is it possible that the Watchmen were originally founded by a breakaway contingent of Bowmen? And that the group in question was the Dragon combat group that Cotton had described to us as having vanished? In the middle of this thought, a runner from Olaf found me and broke my concentration. The tailors had arrived and I was being waited upon. My anticipation knows no bounds.

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The Abomination Returns. A New Player.
Sorscha

Despite offering to serve as a night guide, we are spending another night in the swamp, at a ruined keep, where we witnessed the spawning of an abomination.

That thing is a danger to everyone. Hopefully no one is foolish enough to think that it will have swum away, never to bother us. At least we have the walls of the ruin to work from. As the thin daylight waned, Seifer volunteered for the first shift, along with one of the Ironclad. Between the ring that I acquired, and my elven nature, my needs are minimal and I’m the best suited for the night above. I rested until the sun was gone and began to walk the parapets.

The night wasn’t quiet, but hummed with life in the water and the air. I’ve come to learn that surfacers think that the Long Dark is a barren stretch of rocky caverns, punctuated by the occasional subterranean city. They couldn’t be more wrong. There were areas like that, of course, just as there are wastelands and deserts above. But just like those places, life was everywhere you looked down below. Especially in the cities. Surprisingly, this was the closest I’d felt to home in a while. It was familiar and disturbing.

Indulging in my reveries, I almost missed the light sound of splashing from in the courtyard. Pulling the shadows around me, I moved quietly around toward the source. There was a slight glimmer of light off of moving water and I saw the form of one of the Ironclad. He appeared to be rinsing his hands at the same pool where Seifer had submerged and found his new sword. He didn’t look wet, and I saw nothing additional. He may have simply been relieving himself, but something still felt wrong. Nevertheless, I had no other basis than a feeling to accost him, so I watched as he returned to his bedroll. Resolved to keep an eye on him, I resumed my patrol, unaware that the peace was not to last. Around an hour later, a scream pierced the night.

I curled, preparing to leap down from the wall, when I saw the source of the cry. Hershel had sprung up from his bedroll, sword in hand, still roiled from sleep. My first instinct was anger as the noise could draw unwanted attention from the denizens of the swamp. But then, through the dark, I could see true terror on his face and instead became concerned about its source. The rest of the ironclad were up, weapons in hand, trying to determine just how they were under attack and why the strange newcomer was screaming. I have to commend their discipline, as none of them struck out at Hershel, despite having been confusingly awoken from deep sleep. Seifer stood at the gateway, appraising Hershel and then meeting his gaze with the Ironclad commander. A soldier’s meaning passed between them, and they relaxed, preparing to return to sleep. Hershel refused to do so and, gathering his new bow, walked up the stairs to the walls and stared out into the dark morass.

The Attack
Perhaps Hershel’s terrors were a true harbinger, because shortly after he started his watch, we both saw torchlight being reflected from a mass of eyes; eyes that emerged from the water too close to the curtain wall. Hershel, having used his techniques to go invisible, let fly arrows at the eyes, rupturing one or two. Instead of gore, the burst eyes poured forth all sizes spiders. This additional reminder of home was less comforting. The wounds caused the thing to rear up, and thick tentacles erupted forth at the height of the wall. The spiders dropped from the things wounds onto the wall, and they swarmed around where Hershel stood, outlining his form. Now visible as covered by the spiders, one of the tentacles seized Hershel and dragged him upward.

Calling on my Drow heritage, I limned the creature in fey flames, in order to assist the warriors who could not see in the darkness. It should also prevent it from disappearing or the like, if it had such abilities. As I saw Seifer ascending the ramps toward the thing, I dropped into the courtyard and made for the campfire. Additional light for the others might help, but I was mainly interested in the fire itself as the beast may have vulnerable to the purity of the flame. I seized a brand in either hand and headed back up.

As I reached the top, I could see Hershel still in the beasts grip. Seifer had clearly tried to reach him, there were severed tentacles and chunks of rubbery flesh at his feet, but now he was grappled, as well, though his great icy sword was still swinging, hacking at the constricting arms. I had started making my way to them when a cracking bolt of light lanced from courtyard toward the creature. In the split second of impact, I saw that it was a bolt of lightning. No doubt a new trick from Nathaniel. And it did seem new to him, as he didn’t calculate the effect that it would have on his allies near it. With all of us wet from the creatures exit of the swamp water, and Hershel and Seifer in its grip, electricity arced over both of them, causing their muscles to seize and twitch. Thankfully my own reflexes, honed by years of training, allowed me to avoid the bolt. It did burst a great many of the spiders that the thing had bled out.

As my vision returned, I could see that Hershel was still alive, hacking awkwardly at the tentacle that held him. But Seifer had gone limp. Whether simply stunned from the shock or dead, I didn’t have the time to determine. The Ironclad had gathered their ranged weapons and crossbow bolts began to lance in at the thing around my companions. I had originally intended to help free one or both of them, but the balance had shifted and I had to make a decision. Seifer was incapacitated, possibly dead, and Hershel, adept as he was, was not in a position of strength, even if I managed to free him. Going after the creature itself was the path forward.

Gripping the flaming brands that I still held, I whispered short prayer that Eilistraee would bless my foolish action and keep my friends alive. I turned toward the bulk of the creature that sat in the water, took several steps back, then ran at it and leaped. There was no way that I could have reached it, of course, but centering my will, at the peak of my jump, I pulled the shadows around me and as they lifted, I landed on the back of the abomination. It’s back was slick with fetid waters, and I dropped to a knee to keep my balance. Using the brands to reinforce my fists, I bean to rain blows upon the things back and began to fracture the thick hide.

Bearing a glance back, I could see more figures on the wall, assaulting the thing. Caleb, I think, along with an Ironclad or two, assailed it along with more arrows and bolts. Flashes of magic marked Nathaniel working his craft. Hershel had escaped its grasp and Seifer was conscious again, though he was being drawn to the maw of the beast. In an instant, he was dropped into its mouth. This was no time to mourn, and I redoubled my strikes, jamming the flaming wood into a wound as I opened it far enough for spiders to begin to spill forth. As it turns out, swallowing the knight was a bad idea as Seifer somehow hacked his way up out of the creature, through the fissures I had opened in it. A bright lance of light accompanied him, as I fell back, and he roared a deserved triumph. The creature shuddered and collapsed into the mire.

Taking a breath, I noticed a miasma of sorts had gathered around the creature and now began to flow outward, toward a figure that I hadn’t seen before, moving through the swamp. Focusing my attention, I was able to make out it features. It was the troglodyte from the Bowmen compound in Carrion Hill. It was the one that had risen up to take the body of the fallen chieftain. It had met my gaze then, and I was meeting his, now. Then another cry erupted from the courtyard. Several in fact, then a strangely sounded one, and a dull violet light rose and streaked toward the troglodyte, as well. There was no way that I could get to it quickly from my position. It was not far from the wall, but opposite from me. I looked at it again, pointed a torch that indicated we would meet again, and then used the shadows to leap back to the wall.

As it turned out, the trog in the waters wasn’t alone. The Ironclad, along with Nathaniel and Wulfgar had been dealing with a small group, including one particularly large specimen. Thanks to my method of arrival, it wasn’t expecting an attack from the waterside. I struck from it’s blindside driving a knee into its spine and the blade of my hand into into its throat. It was dead before it hit the ground.

Looking around, I saw that the familiar trog in the waters had a jewel of some type in its hand and it was to this that the essences were being drawn. It also had arrows from Hershel’s bow sticking out of it and Caleb charging at it. In a clatter of impact, both it and Caleb went down under the water. After a moment, the trog’s hand, grasping the jewel began to rise out of the water. Several of us set ourselves to go after it, when Caleb rose up, the severed arm of the troglodyte grasped in his own.

A Spy
Just as I began to relax a bit and take stock of the situation, there was a new uproar from the courtyard. The Ironclad that I had seen at the waterside last night was dead on the dirt, but it had taken on a new form. It was spindly and had smooth, grayish purple skin with an almost featureless face dominated by large, cloudy eyes. I’d indirectly worked with such a creature before. The Ironclad had been infiltrated by a heethir’ku; a changeling. Speaking with the Ironclad, it appears to have happened just last night. Searching the courtyard waters confirmed it, and the body of the replaced soldier had been wedged under rocks within. It seems that it drew my attention immediately after disposing of the body earlier. Rising up from examining the body, I heard Seifer mention something called The Consortium. It seems that we have another complication in the rapidly expanding web of influence across the Sink.

View
Death's Darker Sibling
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)
The Grey Dream

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 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 of the figure’s head, draining away like a mass of thick ink. 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 wrapped me in darkness, whispering atrocities into my mind.

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.

Abomination

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 elven 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. As I did so, I slashed at the beast and severed the tentacle which had been gripping my ankle and dropped to the ground. I turned invisible and began to retreat back to a safe position, but 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, and yelled “What the HELL did you just pour down my throat you shifty sonofabitch?”

I looked back as a cloud of shadow appeared on 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 retreated 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 I had 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 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 The Brunswick Queensguard!”

h6. Darker Tidings

Once the abomination was down, I became aware that there was a secondary battle being fought in the ruined courtyard behind me. I heard inhuman bellows of pain as bodies thumped to the ground, and yells from Wulfgar. A streak of pale violet light shot out of the entrance to the courtyard, and toward a point some distance out into the darkness of the bog. By the starlight, I was barely able to discern the form of a trog wading through the black water, cackling as he held aloft a gem that pulsated and glowed with an eerie violet light that illuminated his face.

Caleb let out a roar of righteous fury as he charged toward the trog, leaping out into the black water and striking at the monster with his bastard sword. The trog locked its arms around the fighter, digging its claws into his shoulders and pulling him down into the water. The black bog roiled as trog and man wrestled in a lump of rolling confusion. I nocked an arrow and drew back the string of my longbow, waiting for the violet glow that would distinguish the trog’s position. As the gem emerged from the water, I fired into the melee.

My arrow struck home and the trog grunted in pain as it stopped wrestling to remove the arrow from the shoulder of the gem-bearing arm. A hand wielding a sword shot out of the water and swung at the arm that clutched the gem. The trog let out an enraged roar of pain as its arm was severed at the elbow, and sunk beneath the bog, leaving a wake of dark water trailing toward the heart of the Ruin as it fled. After several fretful moments, Caleb rose up out of the water, holding the severed arm of the trog, still grasping the violet gem, in his hand.

h6. A New Enemy

Over the ruined wall behind me I heard the shouts of one of the Ironclad soldiers, “WHAT did you DO to him? I want answers, vile wizard!” I entered the courtyard to find the Ironclad commander facing off against Nathaniel, a look of disgust on his face. He was shouting something about his fallen comrade. Moments ago he had looked like a member of their group, who had been with them for some time and was a trusted friend and brother-in-arms. Upon his death the man had mutated into a gaunt, sickly grey humanoid figure with a featureless face and protruding, bulbous eyes. Apparently the Ironclad thought our wizard to be responsible.

Sir Seifer stepped up beside the Ironclad commander; “I know it is a horrible thing which has happened to your friend, and I don’t mean to insult your intuition in such matters, but… our mage is simply not capable enough to do something like this.” We all nodded in silent agreement, but for Nathaniel who opened his eyes wide and looked around at the consensus, then scowled and folded his arms up inside his robes. “No,” continued Seifer, “this appears to be the work of that organization of which we spoke earlier in the evening. This thing is a doppelganger of the Consortium”.

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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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