The World of DaNar

Painting a target
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

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Painting a target

I once overheard a general in service of the Golden Lord say that if a man paints a target on his chest, he should expect that sooner or later someone will loose an arrow on him. The people of Three Cedars didn’t seem to care for this advice, and I was asked to leave the council meeting rather soon after dispensing it. Though I agree that the Bowman issue must be addressed, it is foolish for our people to go about openly bearing a symbol which marks them for death. Better to have allies to the cause who live long enough to actually support it. And that means being cautious.

While Hiraishin-sama and Three Cedars council discussed among themselves the next steps that should be taken, I talked with Sorscha, Xar’eth, and Nathaniel’s posse about what should be done with the message from Hemlock Field. We decided to rest for the night, having just gotten through another exhausting encounter with the Bowmen, who apparently count Werwölfe among their allies.

Our journey to Hemlock Field brought us another half-day away from Three Cedars, and further into hostile territory. Though it made me ill-at-ease to come so far away from the temporary safety granted by our imprisonment within Lochaid and the Rise, it was clear that something needed to be done about these constant requests for assistance. Neither we nor the people we aid can afford to travel between destinations where we are harried by Bowman forces at every turn. As we approached, the messenger let out a bird call which was answered by a spotter somewhere at the village perimeter.

Hemlock Field was like our base of operations, in that it consisted primarily of structures built upon the ruins of great stone buildings, obviously from the time of the ancient Thyatians; but that is where the similarity ended. Where Lochaid and the Rise had cold, stone roofs, Hemlock Field’s were made of thatch; where our place of residence was dead and long-deserted (save the recent presence of Bowmen), Hemlock Field had a feeling of home.

The villagers gathered around to see the strangers who had entered their town, and I noticed on some of them sets of armor similar to those we had seen at Temple Rise, though obviously more well-used, subject to the wear of centuries, and maintained with care. These bore symbols I was largely unfamiliar with, save one: the twined horns and triple triangle of the Thyatian Empire. As I surveyed the crowd, a man from a group of older villagers in the middle stepped forward, and announced himself as High Elder Johnston Greene. Elders Gray Anderson, Arlo Horton, Archie Murrow, and Alice Hart followed suit, and we began discussing the nature of Hemlock Field’s plight with the Bowmen.

As Greene explained, I grimaced at the similarity of this village’s story with that of Three Cedars. Yet again, it seemed to be a case of pride in the Watchmen overriding common sense in keeping one’s head down to avoid the ire of an enemy which clearly (at present) is much stronger. Three of the townsmen who were former Watchmen, inspired by the story of Exelar Vitarri and the Risers, had taken up the old symbol again. As they were returning from patrol, they ran into Bowmen, a fight followed, and (predictably) one of the men died. Apparently they were able to put up a fight sufficient that the Bowmen needed to retreat, but as they did so they vowed to return and slaughter the Watchmen and their families. Again I found myself voicing what turned out to be a very unpopular opinion about voluntarily donning targets in a land brimming with archers. One of the Watchmen, a man by the name of Quentin, offered me some platitude about not giving in to the demands of oppressors. I offered that the saying would make a fine engraving on his tombstone.

Marked for Death

We proceeded with discussion of the Bowman threat: when they were expected back in Hemlock field; what were their numbers; from what direction were they likely to come; until we had a plan of action for fighting squared away. Then I suggested that perhaps the best way to approach this was to avoid a fight at all costs. With the Bowmen likely a day away from returning, we had ample time to get the Watchmen and their families to the safety of Three Cedars. If they were gone, it might be that the Bowmen would be satisfied and be on their way without any in Hemlock Field needing to die. If it did come to blows, Sorscha, Nathaniel, Xar’eth, and myself would be prepared. To my great surprise, after some discussion the council and the townsfolk agreed with my proposition, save that Watchmen, Quentin and Derrick, would stay behind to fight the Bowmen, if necessary.

Preparations were made, tearful goodbyes were said, and a day passed. I lent my new bow to one of the more competent archers among the Hemlock Fielders, and told him to seek a good vantage point. He seemed ecstatic to hold the bow, and offered me most of his livelihood (several goats, a cow, and possibly one of his daughters, though I was only half listening) for the thing, but I declined emphasizing to not fire unless it was clear we would join the Bowmen in battle. Nathan took up a position in the belfry with the archer, with Caleb and Wulfgar standing guard below. Sorscha was hidden somewhere with Watchman Quentin, and Xar’eth was also presumably ready for battle (though he was well-hidden). I took position with Watchman Derrick in Elder Hart’s house, as it had the best vantage point for all the possible roads by which the Bowman could approach. Greene stood at the head of group of Elders in the center of town, just as he had to greet us the day before.

As the sun reached its zenith, the Bowmen came in from the Northeast. Two groups of three split out in opposite directions from from the main force as they came into town, presumably to flank the town’s center. Another four followed behind the main group, and spread out to hold a position a little up the road from Greene and the Elders. The rest came down into the center of town: four heavy infantry along with a man in robes, and the apparent leader; a man in black and red armor, with the arrowhead of the Bowmen emblazoned in crimson on the chest.

As he approached Greene, the crimson man removed his helmet, revealing a head covered with many strange tattoos. He spoke in a grating voice, introducing himself as Lieutenant Trask, and demanding that the Watchmen living among the Hemlock Fielders be brought forth for punishment. Greene informed him that those men and their families had been sent along to Temple Rise by way of Three Cedars a day ago. Trask muttered “Bloodfire will not be pleased by this,” and grit his teeth. Then he said that an example must still be made; the village folk should choose one among them to take the punishment meant for the Watchmen who deserted them. Barely a heartbeat passed before Greene offered himself. The crimson man seemed to shift position slightly, and Greene’s throat was open from ear to ear, blood spraying out over the soil of Hemlock Field. I could feel the tension in the air as Derrick moved his hand to the hilt of his sword. I motioned for him to stay, “Greene sacrificed himself so that his people wouldn’t have to die. Don’t throw that away.” The Elders cried out. Women and children wept. The Bowmen turned around and left.

Sorscha and I left the townsfolk to their mourning, and followed the Bowman force Northeast to make sure they didn’t leave anyone behind, or turn around and march back to destroy the town. They went a few miles, through a forest that looked like it had been levelled at some point by a huge blast, but had since re-grown. It had begun to storm, and my outfit was drenched before the second mile. Sorscha and I stayed back and watched as the Bowmen travelled downhill, around what appeared to be a large marsh. A flash of lightning blared in the dark, and the Bowmen were gone. Satisfied that they had left, Sorscha and I turned to go. As we started back to the Southeast, we heard a monstrous roar from the marsh. We shared a look, and supposed that the sound might be a dragon. Possibly the “Bloodfire” mentioned earlier.

Back in Hemlock Field, we discovered marks on trees around the perimeter of the town, apparently crafted only for the eyes of those who can see in the dark. We found the villagers in the town hall performing some sort of death watch ceremony over the body of elder Greene. We told them of the marks that we found, and they said it reminded of some ancient legends they had heard of the Vorscha; legends that implied the town was marked for death. After some debate wherein we assured them that the Vorscha were, in fact, real and were, in addition, working with the Bowmen, we convinced them to leave Hemlock Field in favor of the relative safety provided by Lochaid and Temple Rise. In the morning, Nathaniel, Sorscha, and I assisted the townsfolk in building a cairn for Elder Greene. As they set Greene’s body alight, he began to rise from the pit, groaning and reaching out to grab whoever was closest to him. Fortunately, he fell pack into the pit, and the weight of the stones crushed in around him as his body burned.
Over the next couple of days, the people of Hemlock Field began to pack up and leave in small groups, spaced an hour apart, until the last group which consisted of us, the Watchmen, and the archer to whom I had again lent my new bow.

Information revealed

We were waiting for a man named Soggy Pete, a tinker who, it was said, may have some information on the Bowmen in the area. We smelled him before we saw him; a fetid combination of rotten midden, mold, and what I can only describe as “swampfoot”. Standing at almost a pace above my head, Pete had greenish skin, carried a big satchel, and spoke in a slow drawl. After about an hour of talking to him, we learned much of the Bowmen, and the surrounding area of the Ruin. The Heart of the Ruin, to which Cutter had referred as the dwelling of the Vorscha, was the area Sorscha and I had been generally headed toward when pursuing the Bowmen. Pete said something about a “Great Patron” driving the Vorscha and the Bowmen to work together. He told us of Marcus Crowley, a Captain loyal to Vladimir Kroenen; of Boris Cotton, Kroenen’s right-hand man and high-ranking member of the Bowmen until Kroenen lost a bout for power with Idris Khan and fell out of favor, forcing Cotton into exile; of Kylan Bloodfire, a Captain of the Bowmen loyal to Idris Khan, who commands Lt. Trask, murderer of Johnston Greene; and of The Ironclad, from a land Pete called “Estrain”. The Ironclad, Pete said, hate the Bowmen and the Vorscha equally. They can be found in small presence at “The Boil”, a place called Carrion Hill, deep in the Ruin on the other side of “The Sink”, more than 20 miles east from Hemlock Field. Also at “The Boil” can be found Boris Cotton, a man with much information and no love for the Bowmen.

After a good deal of conversation with Pete, Nathaniel bargained for his company on the return journey to Temple Rise. He offered to give Pete a cloak that will disguise his appearance, though I can’t guess what use the man means to put it to, seeing that his stench would likely give him away more than his appearance. For the moment, I am glad that we are heading back, and that we have been able to convince the people of Hemlock Field that it is senseless to stay out in the Bowman-infested parts of the Ruin when there is room enough and there are people enough to help defend them in the area around temple Rise.

A hasty note

Lights at the Spire. It is now… complete?

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Return to Three Cedars
Journal entry of Exelar Vitarri
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When we arrived at the Spire to find what the map was pointing to I had no idea what to expect, and now that I think we found it I’m still confused. The final words found on the body of Sir Godsblood suggest that the plague that took place all those years ago was more than we first thought. The magical device that was discovered has our new knight companion, Sipher, convinced that something bad is happening back in his homeland but I’m trying to be cautious about misinterpreting visions from a magical device we know nothing about. Between that and other things we have found, the magic is well beyond a power level I’m comfortable experimenting with. The soul gem seems to be the key to working the device but one step at a time.

During a couple of days of blessed quiet we were able to get better situated, and with the vegetables the druid helped us fast track and the stag the hunters brought back we were well fed for the forest time in eons. Unfortunately the peace want not to last as a messenger brought news of Bowmen threatening the town of Three Cedars. Believing the Bowmen to keep their word and not attack Temple Rise a contingent set out to lend aid. Since I was on horseback my arrival was first and found out the situation was dire for these people. Apparently they had attempted to militarize their village under the banner of the Watchmen and the Bowmen, true to their word, were threatening violence in return.

When the rest of my companions arrived we readied for battle, with Hershel setting traps, Sorscha scouting out, and Xar’eth doing….well whatever he does to get ready for battle. I explained to the elders that they could return with us to Temple Rise our risk their numbers in battle, either way we would stand with them. Not wanting to abandon their homes they chose the latter. Expecting them during the night had us standing in the dark listening to the wildlife and wondering how much of a force to expect.

We didn’t have to wait all night for the answer as their footsteps were not hard to detect, especially when one stepped in one of the traps that had been set. The five men that approached had an air of confidence about them, when I introduced myself they recognized me and I think made them hesitate slightly. After informing them of our intentions to aid the villagers and offering them a chance for retreat, which was refused, I drew my sword and battle began. Nathaniel brought forth an illusion that combined with mine and Siphers presence caused most of them to flee, and when Sorscha sprang out of the shadows to attack the remaining Bowmen it felt like we had things well in hand.

Attacks that I have seen fall many men seemed to miss this one though, which caught everyone by surprise. When the wolf-like creatures attacked from the shadows it felt like the tide had turned against us. The knight strode forward as he vocally challenged the leader, and with Xar’eth sniping him from afar the rest of us focused on the new creatures. We finally defeated them, though Farrell fell in the battle. With the villagers feeling good about themselves, another messenger showed up from another village with the same problem, the Bowmen…..

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Too far from either home
Nathaniel

I know I have neglected my journal for quite some time but at this juncture, i feel that the upcoming explanation will quite justify my written absence. As I have hardly found true rest or time between fighting for my life, discovering an ancient civilization, and fighting off a band of well organized marauders who called themselves “The Bowmen”.

It has been many months since Caleb and I have ventured from our home – at the order of my father – toward a grand city in the northern desert where my uncle runs one of the most prolific mage academies this side of the continent. It was a tradition that the aspiring mages in my family make this trek. Though in times past, we went by sea. Sadly that was not to be the case for Caleb and I, as the war that continues to ravage my homeland has left my family coffers with much to be desired. So it was that we were to travel along with the trade caravans through the thousands of miles of great forest that spans the gap between my former home and my final destination.

Neither my cousin nor I truly expected to end up where we are now. First, our caravan was slaughtered – save a select few – by a band of what I would describe as over-developed orcs. It was with that caravan that I met my months-long mentor and fellow mage who would only allow himself be referred to as “Sir” Winston.

He was a boisterous fellow, who seemed to always have a jovial manner about him. Even until his dying breaths at the end of an orc spear. He will be missed. At some point in the future, I intend to go back and put his remains to rightful rest.

It was only through what I then thought of as luck that Winston had several magic scrolls on his person when he died. I acquired those scrolls and, by the grace of the gods, managed to cast a fireball spell at our attackers. Among other things, I also procured his spell book, spell components, and what else I hoped would be useful for the continued survival of Caleb and myself.

Though the fireball proved extraordinary at the time, my casting of it was not enough to halt our attackers from continuing to put my fellow travelers to the blade and spear. our saving grace came in the form of what my studies tell me to be some sort of apex dire bear. I can only assume it smelled the blood from the battle and attacked both the orcs, and my own people. It was in the ensuing chaos that several of us fled into the forest. We knew shortly after that we “weren’t out of the woods yet” so to speak when we saw that our attackers were STILL on our trail. During this flight, Caleb and I met up with our current companions. Which I will describe as the STRANGEST ragtag group of adventurers and warriors I’ve ever laid my eyes upon.

I will describe them later as I fear I currently do not have the time between the bowmen attacks and defense of our current stronghold to continue writing in my journal. Though I WILL make it a point to do so as soon as I find respite.

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Observing from the shadows
Xar'eth Teken'und

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For some time now I have been traveling with this mixed bunch of surface dwellers. Their logic and understanding of the world still baffles me. Maybe I have spent too much time under the surface to understand their way of thinking. But I must learn to understand them, to at least comprehend their ways. Take this last foray into the Spire.

Nathaniel, the party’s manipulator of the weave is an incompetent fool. He must be afraid of the dark. Instead of using the darkness to his advantage, he wastes his powers on a light spell. This waste of power alerted some nearby enemies of our presence. His lack of common sense could have cost the party greatly. I have yet to see his usefulness. If it wasn’t for his traveling companions he would be unavailing.

As it stands now I fear this group is doomed. We have too many enemies. Dragons flank us, bowman have boxed us in. Our only real allies are these dwarves who have been isolated for generations. Real help might have to come from below. If a passage to home could be found. If any of my family still live. After that witch told me my fortune I’m not so sure that they do. I must stay alert and my eyes open for the answers i seek are out there.

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A key, A book, A choice
Ser Seifer

Entry 2

The Mage, Nathaniel, now has my full attention. Learning that after the incident with the key, he then was caught tinkering around with a soul gem, I now have to watch him for further misuses of magic, possible possession and other be-devilry. The one good thing that came from the mages curiosity, we now have a new direction to explore and secure. The Spire.

The next morning we set out to see what the Spire had to offer and the mysteries that the mage’s vision provided. Being partially collapsed and blocking our path, a few of us assisted the dwarves in clearing the rubble under their precise incite on stonework. There is another drow that I was unaware of that accompanied commander Vitarri . He is sneaky and somewhat stand offish and my new training suggests he is another mage of sorts. Those of us that cleared the rubble were outside the Spire, but somehow when the rubble was cleared, the drow was already inside and sneaking about. I know not what to think of this and if this is normal behavior for him. Exelar Vitarri was not alarmed of his behavior as much as I was. " Was this group always this dysfunctional? Have I gotten myself into another situation where I was not needed, or am unable to help?" Entering the building, I was cautious and on my guard and for good reason.

Upon further exploration, we came to the conclusion that the Spire was some kind of mage academy or mage enclave. All of my skills and new found training would be put to the test and I was unsure if I was prepared enough for what was to come. My suspicions were confirmed about the new drow when he hindered our progress for his own advantage. Nathaniel shed a magic light to illuminate the rooms and as soon as the light was bright the drow cast a shifting darkness in the same area to conceal the light allowing only himself to see clear. “Is he always this selfish or are there other things at work I am unaware of?”

UNDEAD! A sure sign that evil magic was used or contained in this place. Before I could act, the mage Nathaniel entangled five of the undead with a spell. Maybe Nathaniel is not evil, just needs guidance and help. Then the commander showed why he is the Prime of Heironeous. With a few proud boisterous words and a raise of his holy symbol, ten of the undead were turned to dust. I had never seen anything like it. Barely proving I can hold my own in a fight, I only destroyed one before the rest of the party finished them off.

After the undead were cleared and the rooms searched, we confirmed the theory of a mage academy. The next room was opened with the key that I had to “remove” from Nathaniel’s hand the day before. A room full of mage robes and items. Not knowing if these items would do us harm or if in the hands of a mage they would cause trouble I attempted to grab the tome before the mages took it. This turned out more perilous and dangerous for me than I had anticipated. Lightning coursed through my body as I grabbed the tome and what seemed like some kind of spell or essence attempted to enter my mind. My willpower and mage hunting training prepared my mind but the lightning took its toll. Not to be deterred, I attempted again with the same result. My body has been badly damaged by the lightning in the tome but I must continue on.

Nathaniel then did something that I did not see coming but ended up earning my respect. He offered his staff, mage book and ultimately his life should he become possessed or turn from his natural state. I will have to try and be more understanding and cooperative with Nathaniel in the future. Now to press on and continue into the Spire, even with my body as damaged as it is. Creators protect me and guide my hand to do what is right and necessary.

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The Night's Tail
Ser Seifer

Entry log 1

Since my travels have brought me to a new path and quest , I decided to log the events that follow.

While tracking the caravan through the wild lands I came across an encampment the caravan used. It was a massacre. Bodies everywhere, fire damage and magic use throughout the camp. My hatred for mages misusing power made me continue to follow the trail of bodies and damage. After many days of tracking, I came across an old ruin of a town with an army encamped there. Following the armies movement I arrived at another ruin of a town and what seemed like refugees taking shelter there. Was this army the cause of the refugees or were the refugees the reason for the slain caravan?

The army commander met with what seemed like the leader of the refugees and after the talks that ensued, the army pulled back and left. I had to know what was going on. I approached the bridge and announced myself to the leader of the refugees, a man named: Exelar Vitarri. He allowed me to enter and rest and talk with him.

The next day the commander had a task for me. Something or someone was outside our camp and I was to route them out. Calling for an honorable fight as I strode to the location I was directed to search the assailant showed himself but would only engage me with archery. Seemingly out of the shadows themselves, the drow that was accompanying the commander, appeared and gave the archer a thorough beating. After the encounter I was in need of medical attention, taking many arrows in the chest.

That night is when my purpose was revealed. The mage accompanying the commander was acting rather odd after finding artifacts of arcane power. Thinking possession was inevitable, I subdued the mage and rendered him unconscious with mighty blows to the head. The group now sees me as an uncontrollable mage hater, but the farther from the true this could not be. I have never been a pious man, but the creators have placed me where I belong. My crusade against uncontrolled mages is Just and creators willing I will see it through. My purpose is clear and my mission is before me. If this mage is to lose control again, I will be ready to act in any way necessary.

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Breathing Room
Sorscha

It’s a tactic that I’ve seen before, but I didn’t expect it to work here, with the Bowmen.

At Exelar’s suggestion, I took Hershel and set up in the treeline at Lochaid the same night that the bargain was struck. The arrival of this leader among the Bowmen has revealed a level of competence that could not previously be discerned. From our hidden vantage point, we could see them gathering materials, striking fires and camps, all for preparation to leave in the morning and all done with efficiency. Had these Bowmen been present from our first encounter with them, things would have gone differently.

Deciding it was worth a night in the open, we held position and I took my reverie perched in a tree. Come the dawn, the Bowmen were on the move and leaving Lochaid, as had been promised. As they left, they split their number to the East and West out of the town. I assume they did so to enforce our new restrictions. However, thinking back on what Exelar said about his conversation with their leader, I can’t help but wonder what the larger issue is that they’re dealing with that makes it so they couldn’t keep losing forces to us.

I sent Hershel back to the Rise to bring them up to speed. His new cloak makes for a useful and speedy messenger. I wanted to make sure that the Bowmen were gone, so as he left, I descended into the town.

I’m not sure what I expected, but they had actually left. I encountered no traps and buildings were not put to the torch as they left. After the last several weeks, it was strange to be walking here openly. It no longer was a place of danger, but merely old and empty.

Remembering our first time through here, and the determined digging of Bowmen on later visits, I hurried to the building that had collapsed from under me. A quick search lead me believe that in the time since, none of them had managed to dig out the body of the Bowman that fell with the tower. I took note for later and headed to the large, main building that sits near the cliff face. Damaged, but sound, it was also now empty of life. Satisfied for the moment, I went back to Temple Rise.

Arriving at the temple, Exelar was in conversation with a new arrival from the night before. A high elf, he arrived late and exhausted from travel, claiming to have reached us by following signs of battle. He walked out as I walked in to find Exelar examining a map of the area that I hadn’t seen before, He told me that he believed it be a type of magic that pointed out threats in the area around the Rise and that he had sent the newcomer to search for one, in particular. He then requested that I follow the elven knight to observe and “not let him die, if possible.”

This new elf was a strange one. Having shown up declaring himself an enemy of “those who would use magic to subject others”, and drow and their ilk, of course, he was now tromping through the forest, hurling boisterous challenges into the trees. He made it very easy to keep track of him while staying hidden. But, strange or not, his methods appeared to work as I suddenly noticed movement in a tree as there was the sound of a bowstring and a feathered shaft sprouted from the elf’s chest.

A fight ensued and, though the sniper was skilled, I managed to disable him fairly quickly. I noted, however, that every time I set the man up where we had advantage, the elf would not avail himself of it. He merely kept bellowing, demanding that the man stand up and face him, while simply standing there and not fighting.

Ultimately, I fought him to the point where he yielded. He said that he was instructed to convey that just as the Watchmen were fair game for the Bowmen if and when operating outside the Rise and Lochaid, so were their forces vulnerable when operating within the domains ceded to the Watchmen. He also said that we should expect that they will want to keep an eye on us, but that if we caught their spies, then they deserved to be caught. The sniper then used a device I’ve seen with the drow before – a mouth-carried capsule or false tooth filled with poison – and promptly died. We searched the body and returned across the bridge.

We arrived back at the same that Nathaniel and his entourage, along with Balk, were returning from Lochaid. Apparently, he had gone down and had Balk dig out the body from the collapsed building that I had noted earlier, As had become something of a custom, we piled our newly found items together to begin a magical analysis of them.

Everything went normally until Nathaniel examined a key. The very air in the temple room changed. It became heavier, almost like it took effort to move through it, and Nathaniel began to scream and then speak in several layered voices, The key burned in his hand with a strange light. Before anyone, even myself, could move, the elven knight moved forward and struck the key from Nathaniel’s hand. At the moment this happened, a wave of force erupted from the key, knocking all in the room prone and Nathaniel collapsed into a heap.

After some recovery time for all, I sought out Nathaniel, intending to inquire as to the nature of what he experienced with the key. As I entered the basement libraries, I saw him communing with a glowing crystal of some type and again, speaking with voices that were not his, nor otherwise present in the room. Calling out, I told him to set the gem down, immediately. When he refused and began trying to explain why he would not, I raced forward and rendered him unconscious with two precise strikes. This would not happen again the same day.

I took an empty pouch, grabbed the gem with it, and strode from the room, headed for Exelar’s chamber. On my way, Nathaniel, roused by one of his men, attempted to stop me through explanations and even physically, but I would not be deterred.

After consulting with Exelar in council, a course of investigations has been determined. Exelar is holding onto the gem to be examined further. And the rest of us are to go down to the Spire to investigate visions that Nathaniel had while under the influence of the key. Something in his descriptions of them reminded of the encounter with the Old One in the goblin caves, and I am not encouraged. It brings to mind a surface saying that I’ve begun to become familiar with about frying pans and their fires.

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The Final Stand
Journal entry of Exelar Vitarri

During my excursion across the North Bridge things got out of hand back home, between Shepard spiking heads and Xar’eth torturing prisoners, and left a black mark on Temple Rise. So with our dwarven allies at our back it was time to try and resolve the situation before things get worse. With Olt and Gruendok accompanying me we left the Spire and headed towards Lochaid

Our approach was quickly noticed and an alarm went out. Not wanting to leave my other companions too far behind I stop at the edge of town, giving Hersheland Sorscha a chance to find a good hidden position on our flanks. After only a few minutes a small contingent approached our position led by a small, lithe figure that appeared to be the “Sam” that Hershel told us about. Appearing to hail from the same region that Hershel himself came from she introduced herself as Meiko Sama. With the movement that reminded me of Sorcha and the cold look you would get from Xar’eth I was on my guard.

She asked about the sneak attack from the previous night, which I said I was unplanned by me and a rogue attack. I apologized for the attack on their emissaries, so I came myself to parlay. She stated turning over the remaining Watchmen would help cease hostilities, which I refused, and countered with them leaving us alone and us not killing them. Seeing that we were at an impasse, I offered the return of Immen Khan’s body to show we can be at odds and still be civilized. After a quick inspection to confirm identity we parted ways.

As we approached the Spire a contingent of forces arrived at Lochaid, the reinforcements we had feared. Another roughly 30 armored men, heavy infantry and archers, led by a man on horseback in a mithril and blue dragonhide armor, and surrounded by a smaller group, also mounted, Gruendok says are referred to as The Dervish. He is apparently the Bowmen third in command, Vladimir Kroenen, and judging by the missing hand, eye and the plentiful scars I believe I know how he acquired his armor. Certain we would be meeting soon I acknowledged him from afar and he responded in kind.

Leaving Sorscha and Hershel behind to watch for their approach I went to prepare for the coming battle. As I sent Shepard and the refugees into the temple, the weather must have sensed what was to come because a massive thunderstorm arrived ushering in nightfall. With everybody on edge, Hershel transforming from bat form was quite unexpected, unlike the news of the enemies approach. Sorscha arrived shortly after and I sent Ferrell to inform Shepard the time had come to lock everybody into the temple. Activating the temples latent defenses and using daylight on the main bridge, which surprisingly also transferred to the north bridge, was the last things done in preparation. As the light washed outward it revealed the enemy commander and “The Dervish” sitting in the road and watching us, how they approached unheard was unsettling. Seeing the line of torches that appeared marching up the road behind them, like a long fire snake, was even more unsettling. torches-dave-donaldson.jpg

The leader approached and I met him on the middle of the bridge. After introductions were made he seemed very business like and spoke in a Vilholman accent. He informed me as a problem solver we were a problem he needed to solve, the amount of men and resources lost has become too large to ignore. His solution is to no longer use any to acquire what is essentially the ruins of two towns they never wanted and the death of the remaining Watchmen. They are leaving Lochaid and taking some of the supplies from the captured refugees. As long as we stay in Lochaid and Temple Rise we will be left alone, travel in and out would be at our own risk and any Watchmen outside of here would be killed on sight.

Before his departure he wanted to repay the gesture I made by returning Immen Khan’s body, stating that Idris Khan was very fond of his “Stiefbrüder”, a Vilholman term that Nathaniel later informed me meant step-brother, but in his native Vilholm could also mean blood-brother, half-brother, or adopted brother. Kroenen had a Dervish bring forth a hooded, gaunt, and hunched over figure and said this made us even. With a motion his men vanished, torches and all, and he departed.

The final shock of the night was when the unmasked man was Cutter, though Hershel didn’t kill him, the poison has devastated him physically. Where we go from here will be interesting indeed…

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Swallowing the plate
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

Prepared to die

I stood outside, staring into the distance as Sorscha posted guards at the cellar door, and hurried North toward the temple. The look on her face told me that she was deeply disturbed, and sorely disappointed. This made me feel ashamed, in a way I had not felt since I was banished from the service of the Golden Lord in Honshu.

I know now that I need to face down Cutter, and to do so alone. The gods will decide whether I succeed or fail. If I die, I do so in penance of the demon within myself which I have unleashed; if I live… I am not sure what to make of that.

I stepped aside into the shadows with the dark elf Xar’eth. Perhaps the demon markings etched onto his face made me feel a sense of sordid kinship. I confided in him, telling him my plan to fly into Lochaid in the night to gather information on the Bowmen, and to kill Cutter, if presented the opportunity. I asked him about the nature of the poisons which we acquired from the drow priestess; he told me that one was a standard drow sleep poison, and the other was the venom of a purple worm. I also asked him to use his magic sense to see whether the arrows I picked up from Bowman Toby were magical; they were. I nodded to the dark one and said “Arigatou gozaimasu, akuma shinja”.

I followed the party of Dwarves carrying supplies up the road, that had apparently accompanied Exalar and the others on their return from the north, and asked one of them if they could spare any rope. I was given a 50-foot length of finely crafted silk. I thanked them, and made my way out of town, creeping behind buildings and fences so that none would see my passing. I crept my way quietly to the South, toward the Spire. When I got there, I climbed to the top level, and hid in a dark corner. There I sat, gathering my strength and calming my mind in preparation for my strike at the heart of Lochaid.

A bat in a village

Dusk began to fall. I heard the stirring of the bats which made their home in the lower level of the Spire. I opened my eyes, and prepared myself. The stirring became a fluttering as I walked toward the edge of the broken second story of the ancient stone structure. I took the cloak1 behind me in both hands, and jumped, transforming into a bat in mid-air. I rose through the sky to the South, flapping my wings and chittering to find my way in the darkness, along with the dark colony. As I flew over the trees, my altered senses found that the number of Bowmen snipers in the woods had dwindled considerably.

Quietly, I fluttered my way up to the roof of the lookout deck, the floor of which raised about 5 feet up from the main roof of the building. I laid flat before releasing the edges of the cloak and turning back into my natural form. As I did so, the ancient structure groaned a bit under the new weight. I heard the Bowman guard on the landing below me mutter something about “these fucking old buildings falling apart”, and I stayed still as death for another few minutes. After being sure that the guard did not notice my presence, I crept quietly to the edge of the roof causing a few more groans and another mutter from the guard. Thankfully, the night carried a northerly wind, which was enough to account for the sounds.

I looked out upon Lochaid, and saw far fewer bonfires than there had been just two nights earlier, when we made our strike on the North edge of town. As I laid, I listened to the voices of Bowmen talking and laughing together as they drifted up from the second story of the building. The lookout muttered something under his breath about “the way that Cutter treated the sergeant… should have just killed him, rather than string him up to suffer like that.” I dropped down to the main roof as silently as possible, ducked below the view of the guard, and crawled slowly toward the edge of the roof where the sound of Cutters voice drifted up from the balcony. The view from the roof allowed me to estimate the extent of the Bowman defenses. It appeared that they were down to somewhere between 20 and 30 men. I also spotted a man who I recognized as a Bowman sergeant, strung up to a cross out front.

I thought about what this meant for our chances of survival as I laid there and listened to Cutter talking to his men. We had cut down their number significantly, and obviously there was some kind of power struggle happening between the Bowmen and Cutter’s mercenaries. How loud that man was; how certain that he would arise victorious! He talked of “those cowards at Temple Rise,” and how he had “given them a chance to surrender themselves.” He admitted that we had done him a favor by killing Immen Khan. He talked of a man called Al’Basheer, of his aspirations for military governorship over this sector of the Wildlands. For hours, the man talked. “I hope Idris comes himself…” Well that was revealing. Perhaps the strength of these impending reinforcements had been exaggerated. After he had slain the Risers with his words, Cutter reflected that the Vorscha would “disappear into the black heart of the ruin!” I noted this last comment, and resolved to discuss it further with my companions.

It is said that in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. The Honshujin say of this man that he is ”tori naki sato no koumori”; “a bat in a village without birds.” After hours of listening to Cutter, it was quite clear that he was the one-eyed man; he was the bat. My greatest hope was that removing him from power would leave a country of the blind leading the blind.

The tiger’s cave

Sometime around midnight, Cutter retired to his room with an ally whom I had heard referred to as “Sam”. I waited an hour after I heard them settle into their beds, and I dove off the edge of the roof, transforming into a bat as I did so, and flying down onto the shuttered window. I squeezed my tiny body in between the slats of the shutters, and flew up to hang from the rafters, changing back into human form. As I hung upside down, I drew an arrow and the purple wurm poison from where I had secured them to my belt. I applied the poison to the arrow, and took aim at Cutter’s sleeping form, taking steady breaths, and lining up my shot for a solid minute. I fired, and Cutter grunted as the arrow sunk into his ribs. Sam was up immediately, cursing at me, throwing shuriken which sunk into my shoulder and back. I feared that I hadn’t injured Cutter gravely enough, and so I fired one more shot, this one into his belly, before dropping from the ceiling and turning back into bat form.

I heard Sam yelling out the alarm as I flew out the makeshift wall erected by the balcony, which had been partially blown up during our first encounter with the Bowmen. I flapped away to the north, unsteadily dipping into the treeline with every fifth beat of my wings. When I arrived in Temple Rise, I sought shelter in the hayloft of the barn beside the temple, thinking that I would sleep off my wounds there. As I shifted back into human form, a horrible pain racked my belly, and I fell, groaning to the floor. A moment later, I doubled over and screamed as my vision went dark…


I awoke in the main chamber of the temple, with Exelar standing over me. My consciousness faded in and out for the next few moments, muttering things that I only half comprehended. When I fully came to, the giant hands of the shield guardian were laying over my face, and I had a second of irrational fear that it would crush my skull.

“Cutter is dead. Hopefully that will stop the Bowmen from attacking us.”

“OR it will bring further retribution. By doing this you risked the lives of everyone in Temple Rise. You do not have the right to make those kind of decisions!”

So the conversation went, I offering my positions and the rest of the Risers rebuking me for “selfishness” and “idiocy”. But when discussion turned to going back down to the Spire and scouting out the current standing of the Bowman situation, again I was among the first to volunteer.

When we got to the Spire, I waited along with the others while Sorscha went down to Locahid to assess the situation. She reported back that the Bowmen seemed to be gathering their defenses. As she talked of observing some sort of in-fighting among, I could not help smiling a bit. It seems that Cutter’s death may already be helping us…

A more capable foe

In the morning, Sorscha and I both went down to the forest at the northwest edge of Lochaid to keep apprised of the Bowman situation. It appeared that the man who had hung on the cross the night before had been cut down, and lay dead, out in the open where the crows could eat at his flesh. A short man clad in red armor, with a belt of shuriken across his chest and two swords strapped across his back, commanded Bowmen and mercenaries alike, his gravelly voice forceful, but quiet. “Sam”; another Honshujin, by the look of it; was clearly a more capable leader than Cutter. This was not a good sign.

We made our way back to the Spire, and began discussing among ourselves what to do about the Bowman situation. My actions the night before seemed to have forced our hand. If we waited too long, the enemy force would grow stronger and more capable. They would possibly add Idris Khan to their numbers, which, according to Shepherd and Grundach, is no small advantage. My view is that we need to strike now, while they are on the defensive and their numbers are reduced. Sorscha seems to, begrudgingly, agree. The new Dwarven force and Exelar are not convinced.

Whatever is done, we must do it soon…


1: Cloak of the Bat ; obtained during the previous adventure as loot from the fallen Bowman force which attacked Temple Rise

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Cling together
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

“Mitgefangen, mitgehangen!” – old Vilholman adage

Aftermath

The Bowman retaliation was swift, and devastating. We lost Lazar Namah, the ranger who accompanied Sorscha and myself on our strike against Lochaid. We also lost Kincaid, Jacob, and two of the refugees that fought their way out of the Bowman stronghold. Ulrick was maimed in the fight, and Al’sharri Nightglow is inches away from death. In a town made up of primarily women, children, and farmers, we lost six of our best warriors. Our only solace is in the number of enemies we have slain… and the capture of Cutter’s man, Jack.

After counting our dead and taking supplies from our fallen foes, we rested for what remained of the night. In the morning, Exelar announced that he, Sorscha, and Nathaniel’s entourage would head up North to see if it presented any way out of our current situation. I volunteered to stay behind and guard the town to the best of my ability, being one of the few left capable of fighting should more Bowmen advance on Temple Rise.

Parley

I started the day by taking up a patrol around the woods and paths to the South of Temple Rise. I was sure that the Bowmen would strike again while greater than half of our fighting forces were away, so I ate little, both because we had little and to keep my senses sharp. I could hear every rustle of wind through the leaves, and even the slightest sounds my feet made as I walked seemed to reverberate through the forest. I spent all day patrolling, yet saw not a single living creature in those woods.

The following morning, Shepherd approached me and asked if I would scout the area near The Scarlet Spire. I made my way south through the trees, and as I approached the spire I saw a party of three Bowmen heading up the road on horseback, bearing a white flag. I took a quick look around, to see if any more of them might be shadowing behind this group. Though I saw no one, I thought it prudent to test my assumption by firing a shot at one of the horses. My arrow took it in the foreleg, and the beast reared up on its hind quarters, screaming as it threw its rider to the ground and ran south, toward Lochaid.

Unfortunately the Bowman was fairly unharmed as he stood, shaken, shouting “P-p-p-parley! We were sent to parley with the masters of Temple Rise!” I stayed still, and watched in silence as the group scanned the woods and the area around the Spire nervously. After a few moments they made their way up the road, glancing uncertainly from side to side as they did.

Approaching the bridge, the Bowmen stopped and began to call out to Shepherd, who was in command of the guard posted at the bridge. I crept closer up behind the group, and took aim with my bow, prepared to kill every one of them at a moments’ notice. The unhorsed one gave a message to Shepherd, the nature of which was essentially “Surrender or die.”

I took that as my cue to send an arrow through the bastard’s throat. Balk, who was apparently on catapult duty, lobbed a giant boulder onto one of the Bowmen riding a horse, crushing beast and rider in one hideous blow. The third Bowman turned to ride back down the road and was pin-cushioned by the time he rode by my position. I fired a couple more into his back for good measure, and he fell to the ground dead as his horse cantered off 50 yards or so to nibble on some grass.

Celebration

The people of the Rise were in good spirits with the smell of horse flesh roasting on the fire. Balk salivated over his singed haunch, and I took a little off the shoulder to calm my rumbling stomach. But my work for the day was not yet finished; the parley group had seen to that when they delivered Cutter’s message. Let the refugees go, surrender yourselves; Khan is coming.

There is a saying in my native tongue: “doku kuwaba sara made”; when poisoned, one might as well swallow the plate. Feeling the poison of that message in my gut, I sought out Xareth in his crypt beneath the old tavern. He introduced me to the prisoner, Jack, and I began pressing the man for information. Information on Cutter, where he sleeps, the layout of the main building at the southern edge of Lochaid. I questioned while Xareth prodded the broken man, making the information pour forth—

A stream of light shot into the dank cellar from the doors out to the garden-courtyard. The light hurt my eyes, and it took a moment for them to adjust as Sorscha stepped into the room. She looked disgusted; pained. I followed her gaze to Bowman Jack, and for the first time truly saw the brutality of the wounds inflicted on him. She spoke, but I could not hear. I stumbled past her and up the stairway into harsh daylight.

Swing together

I know not who Khan is, but I do know one name that I have heard daily, since stumbling into this war with the Bowmen: “Cutter”. And now, it appears, Cutter is in command of Lochaid. If we could take him out, maybe the force at Lochaid would fall apart. Maybe they would stop attacking us, and we could get away from this godforsaken island. But if they don’t…

Having learned various Human languages, I have developed an affinity for sayings in different tongues. There is a common expression: “In for a copper; in for a gold”, that I feel suits our Bowman situation almost perfectly. Its counterpart in Honshugo is that saying which I mentioned earlier, about swallowing the plate. The Vilholman, though; their words always cut to the heart of the matter. In Vilholm it is said “Mitgefangen, mitgehangen!”; Cling together, Swing together!

This I promise: as the Bowmen continue to ally against us, so will they hang.

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