The World of DaNar

The North Bridge
Journal Entry of Exelar Vitarri

Exelar Vitarri

North_Bridge_Temple_Rise.jpg

With the Bowmen seemingly unwilling to leave us in peace in Temple Rise we need to discover more options should we need them.

Along with myself, Sorscha, Nathaniel and his two companions we go the only direction left to us…north across the destroyed bridge to look for help or an escape. Sorscha of course traverses the tree laid across the chasm by our ogre friend Bulk with ease, I follow with ease though not with the same grace. Nathaniel and his friends not so much, after several slips and near falls they make it across to join us. As they try and regain their pride, and everyone that watched regain their composure we set off along what appears to be an old cobblestone path.

The path leads up into the mountains to a high plateau with ruins of what we assume is an old Dwarven town, based on the huge sculptures flanking the road into the town. We fan out and discover what appear to be cairns holding dwarves of some importance nestled against a sheer cliff face, surrounded by a semi-circle of 13 statues similar to the ones that flanked the road as we entered the ruined town. The statues are well worn and damaged, but we clearly make out Moradin, a dwarven god, the others are not so easy. Between us we think one has the the clan insignia of Wyrkadrin, or Soul Anvil. Will have to do more research when we get back to Temple Rise. Nathaniel detects there is still some wards active on them, and after noticing the upkeep around the cairns we know someone is still actively taking care of the place.

While Nathaniel is taking sketches of some runes, Sorscha informs me we have a stalker in the form of a large cat hiding in the trees, and possibly the bird that’s been circling overhead. Not wanting to anger any forest creatures we leave and continue along the path.

About an hour and a half further up the mountain we find a pair of guard posts flanking a large stone bridge. Deciding we couldn’t make it back before dark I start across the bridge followed by my companions. Halfway across we see figures waiting for us on the other side that appear to be dwarven in stature. Not wanting Sorscha to give a bad first impression based on her obvious heritage I stride forward with Nathaniel trailing behind to serve as translator if necessary. After giving a greeting I learned years ago to break the ice we cycled through several languages until we came upon an amalgamation that worked.

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These are the survivors of an old Dwarven citadel that used to trade with Temple Rise during the Thyatian Empire. Apparently some kind of sickness hit the human settlement that caused them to attack and kill each other, which is why no one has been able to settle there.

They destroyed the bridge to protect themselves, and have had no contact with humans other than a druid that is a descendant of the town. Apparently the dwarves had their own problems, a colossal dragon has taken up residence in their main keep, and they have struggled to survive since, residing in a former outpost called Shädenhome, even doing the unthinkable and cohabiting with Duergar to survive.

Wanting to renew the agreement made centuries ago, I as the new Prime agree to help them and they agree to aid us.

The Shädenhome dwarves offer, as part of our renewal of the ancient agreement, to send a group of 15 dwarves, lead by a great grandson of the Chief Gruenchdok, back to Temple Rise with us as reingforcements and also some supplies to relieve our besieged refugees. I believe we may have found our miracle. Blessed be Heironeous.

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Defeat
Sorscha

After falling back to the Rise from the strike on Lochaid, Exelar and the former Watchmen rushed to set up the defenses. Hershel’s new foundlings were sent to the temple for healing while defenses were set up around the front bridge and the broken northern exit. I decided to return to the forest and scout for the Bowmen advance. Hershel followed on the opposite road facing.

My decision proved a foolish one, as we were quickly cut off from the town. A phalanx of Bowmen troops in heavy armor and shields came up the road to the base of the south bridge. I wouldn’t be able to do anything against 15 armored footmen alone, so I let them pass, anticipating an ambush as they engaged our force on the bridge.

Moving up toward them, I noticed unexpected movement in the trees across the road. Running over, Hershel was in an apparent standoff with a figure I’d not seen before. I flanked the figure, anticipating a fight, but Hershel sent him on his way. I don’t know that I’ll come to truly understand humans.

Moving to the bridge, I saw that Nathaniel had been harrying the bowmen. A familiar sight for me, he had webbed the span horizontally, separating the phalanx into two groups. Hearing combat further into the town, I leapt onto the bridge rail and ran across, passing the occupied Bowmen without so much as an attack.

Coming around the bend, I encountered a Bowmen strike team that had been attacking into town. Cutter was with them. Taking in the scene, one of Exelar’s trainines was down, Ulrich was surrounded and seriously wounded, and the half-elf firing one arrow after another while being advanced on.

I tried to draw their attention to me. Having previously ruined the temper on Cutter’s prized blade, it was now dull and brittle. I moved to the ruins of the inn and shouted for his attention. Now in view, I shoved the blade into a fracture of the foundation and focused my strength, shattering the blade sideways.

The coward did not face me himself, but sent his fodder after me and ran. They were not a challenge and fell quickly. Looking around, it was not only Cutter, but the remains of the Bowmen force were all in retreat. Ulrich had lost an arm, his life only saved through healing magic. The half-elf lay unconscious on the edge of death. I don’t know who else survived or perished. We need to regroup and take stock.

We underestimated the threat that the Bowmen presented and we have paid for doing so. We had survived, but we were beaten. I have tried restraint with these waste before. I had set aside the ways in which I was raised and this was the result. No more. Let the Bowmen beware for I will not suffer any to live while I do.

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Temple Rise attacked!
Journal Entry of Exelar Vitarri

After arriving back at Temple Rise following the successful attack on the Bowmen we quickly make introductions with the new refugees. I send Shepard with them to the temple while I hurriedly try and set up some defenses for what we expect to be a retaliatory assualt.

With most of the forces marshaling at the main gate, Xar’eth and Capt. Kincaid are watching the old north bridge. Sorscha and Hershel are scouting across the river and we have a few others patrolling the island. I head to the temple to check on the newcomers and see if they can be of any help in the upcoming battle.

Most are badly wounded and will be of little help, they have a cleric of Pelor with them but all my healing can do at this point is to ease his pain. The de facto leader of the escapees, a gray elf by the name of Sep, tells me his half-orc companion could be of assistance. The weapons and armor they stole from their captors are ill suited, so I have Shepard equip them with some of our reserves.

As I head out to check on our defenses, I barely make it to the north bridge when the attack starts. Several Bowmen have crossed the river and made their way to the temple before an alarm was sounded, before I can react arrows rain down on Xar’eth and Kincaid. Hoping they can fend them off from, I race towards the temple where the most vulnerable people are located.

I mentally call for the temple guardian as i run, from my vantage the attackers seem to be focusing on Shepard. Our newcomers are trying to help as is the blacksmith. Still not close enough to be help with my sword, a call is sent forth to Heironious to aid me. I watch as their leader is suddenly frozen in place, which the temple guardian uses to his advantage and decapitates him.

Sep has fallen and miraculously recovers, the half-orc dies, and the blacksmith loses an arm before we finish off the intruders. After getting all the refugees into the temple and having Shepard lock the door, I head out to survey how the others fared…

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Strike & Retreat
Sorscha:

Forward
The raid was planned. Two teams would strike at two fires on the edge of town closest to the Spire. One drow in each team, to smother the fire’s light and confuse the unsuspecting guards.

Myself, Hershel, and the woodsman, Lazar, were to strike the further camp. Separated from the path of retreat and exposed for longer to the enemy, ours was the greater risk. However, we were also adept at remaining hidden, so it made sense for the risk to be ours.

Exelar and Xeroth took to the posting that lay on the main road coming down from the Rise. That more direct path favored a larger man in heavy armor. And, despite being a more drow than myself, Xeroth is a fahliell, and so is more adept at overt displays of power than going unnoticed.

As we set out to stalk our target, familiar feelings came to me. Here, at night, the skies blocked by plants and smoke, stalking around structures to hit the enemy, I could be back in the har’oloth. Calling on my drow blood, I covered the fire, along with the troops near it, in twisting shadow. With the signal made, we advanced. Lazar was more effective than I suspected and killed the sniper in a shot. Cries echoed from one of the Bowmen as they blindly stumbled into their own fire. Hershel laid low one and engaged another. Seeing an opening, I dodged around his melee and another fell, broken.

We were competent, and the attack ended quickly as it began, with only the burning man still breathing. I could hear clashes in the distance. Exelar must have taken his cue from our attack and begun his own. Turning to leave, I was confronted with the sight of my human companions both standing and staring further into town. What were they doing? The plan was progressing perfectly and it was time to go. If they kept standing like rothe, we would all be dead!

“Hershel, it’s time to go!” Nothing. The hunter had begun to move, but he still stood as if dumbstruck. One more time, then.

“We need to go. Our job is done. If you stay, you do so alone. I will not risk the others!”

Apparently, that was enough. His head snapped toward me and I began our retreat back to the North road. I could hear him following.

Emerging from the treeline onto the road, I could still hear combat from the other team’s position. A shadowy sphere still blotted the firelight. I sent my companions on to the Spire and ran back to the others. As i approached, I could see Exelar being pressed by a bowman opponent. Several bodies were strewn around, and he seemed to be flagging from a few significant wounds.

I could hear a bowman commander shouting orders and the march of heavy-armored feet coming in our direction. Lacking the time for subtlety, I charged with all speed. Leaping over Exelar’s flagging guard, I drove all my weight through my fist and into the face of the bowmen. Bone shattered as he went limp and fell. Handing my mentor a healing draught, we made pace for the Spire.

Back
Regrouping at the Spire, I had a feeling that the bowmen were not going to let things end here. We’d rattled the bat nest and they weren’t going back to sleep soon. I had Hershel scout West as I went East, looking for others like ourselves that would be hunting us down.

In short order, I found a group of a dozen or so lightly-armored bowmen working their way toward the Spire through the trees. i wouldn’t be able to eliminate so many on my own. Again calling on my drow nature, I summoned wisp lights formed as torches to imitate a hunting party and sent them on a path to flank the bowman advance. Hopefully this would provide a delay.

As I emerged, Hershel was there with another group I’d not seen before. A story for later, then. I discussed with the others the oncoming forces and it was decided that we’d not be able to hold the Spire. Balk dropped rubble onto the basement entrance, The fire log trap was lit and kicked onto the road, and anything burnable was set alight on the rubble pile to conceal it and prevent further use. Anything else of use we picked up and carried back to the Rise, where we now prepare for the enemy arrival…

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A Thousand Cuts
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

I have heard that Tetsu no Daimyo , the Iron Lord who rules over the Yamatai region of Honshu, has an especially brutal punishment for crimes such as treason or patricide. When the criminal is caught, they are strapped to a post in the center of town. Then, in front of the eyes of all the townfolk, their flesh is removed in small strips over a number of days, until they die. This is leng chi, the Death by a Thousand Cuts, and it is the punishment that I intend for the Bowmen.

Hit-and-run

The night raid went nearly according to plan. Sorscha, myself, and Lazar went East, behind the ruined buildings on Lochaid’s North face. As the Drow spell dropped on the Bowman watch-fire, I moved up into the inky darkness to strike at the enemy as they shouted out in confusion, fumbling for their weapons. A swift whisper of disturbance in the air above my head followed by a loud groan and a muted thud some distance to the Southeast told me that Lazar had hit his mark in taking out the sniper in the treeline.

Off to my right, faintly visible in the darkness, a Bowman who had failed to find his way around the bonfire rolled in the grass, screaming as his body burned. The smoke stung my eyes, and filled my nose with the smell of charred flesh and burnt hair. The former made my stomach grumble; a disturbing reminder of the shortage of food back at Temple Rise. My body was jarred to the side as I caught a Bowman arrow in the shoulder, and I resolved to discipline myself later for becoming distracted.

A cloud of blackness a shade darker than the Drow spell passed in front of my vision as Sorscha sidled by the chaos to fight the Bowmen on the West side of the watch-fire. I tumbled by my adversary to position him with his back against the wall, and struck once more, sending him bleeding to the ground. More arrows flew, and more screams ensued.

As we danced around the fire, a call went up from somewhere inside Lochaid, rallying the Bowmen to deal with the unseen threat at the edge of town. Almost simultaneously, shouts of confusion and sounds of battle erupted from a large building on the South side; possibly indication some other force attacking the Bowman encampment. I looked around; the enemy lay dead, burning, or bleeding around the fire. We had accomplished our goal.

I hesitated, as I thought about the possibility of running the length of Lochaid to assist in whatever battle had been met there. Maybe we could strike at the heart of the Bowmen encampment here. Maybe I could take out Cutter, or some of his men. With help from this extra fighting force, we could turn the hit-and-run into a victory. Or maybe I could use my Ninja training and take advantage of the confusion to secret myself away in the main building, and hide there until the immediate threat of danger had passed and the Bowmen became complacent…

Sorscha’s voice broke me out of my dreams of what could be: “Hershel, it is time to go!”
I paused for another second and looked Southward, measuring my odds.

“I see no reason to stay when we have completed our task. Stay if you want; you will do so alone.”

I sighed as I turned from my dreams of conquering the Bowman force. Sorscha and Lazar disappeared, zig-zagging Northwest through the night toward the rendezvous point at the Spire. The Bowman I had fought earlier lay on the ground, bleeding but still breathing. I took another moment to open his throat with my dagger, then I followed my allies.

Retreat

We ran toward the Spire, with 30 or more Bowmen in pursuit. As we crested the top of the hill, I took a moment to ask Exelar Vitarri for healing, as Sorscha gave me instructions to split off into the woods to watch for any forces attempting to flank us.

I headed downhill through the woods to the West, and spotted a group of about a dozen, the foremost dressed in Bowman armor. I positioned myself with my bow, and went invisible until they were in close enough range that I could strike their vitals. They moved up, and I hit the Half-orc first, knocking him to the forest floor.

At that moment, the party stopped and looked around, panic-stricken and weary. As I became visible, I talked with the leader of the group. He told me that they had been prisoners in the Bowman camp. I went to the half-orc and gave him a potion, and told the group to follow me and help fight the forces advancing on the Spire.

We returned to the Spire, and Sorscha emerged from the woods to the East, informing us that there was a group of about 10, moving around to flank us. She managed to distract them, buying us just enough time to flee. Balk ignited the log trap that we had set up outside the walls and kicked it down the hill. Grundach went around and activated devices he had put in place to destroy anything around the Spire that could prove useful to the Bowmen, and to conceal the basement, which held supplies that could be useful if we were ever able to get back to recover them.

999 more

Retreating toward Temple Rise, I looked around at our party. This night, we had struck a blow to the Bowmen forces in Lochaid. We had done so without any losses, and we had gained a dozen more potential fighters against the enemies pursuing us. That could bode well for the 999 cuts yet to be dealt…

The scent of charred flesh and burnt hair still filled my fukumen, and I removed the mask as we came into town. I halted on the bridge, my stomach rumbling as the party of nigh on a score passed me by and headed toward the temple at town’s center.

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Avoiding the fire...
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

Avoiding the fire…

There is a saying in my language: “Hi wo sakete mizu ni ochiru”. Literally translated into Trade Common, it means “Avoiding the fire, one falls into the water.” In Vilholman, it is said “vom Regen in die Traufe kommen”, or “Out of the frying pan, into the fire”. I feel that the Vilholmans have it right, in this instance. For if one is burning, even the swiftest river must surely seem a respite.

We made it back to Temple Rise alive, despite the efforts of a dragon, an aboleth, a Bowman, several mercenaries, and possibly an old gypsy woman (I am still not convinced that she is entirely friendly). On our way, we discovered that the Ruins of Lochaid are now overrun with Bowmen; and they have captives.

At Temple Rise we sat and broke bread with Exelar Vitarri and the gathered townspeople. As we ate, we told him of our near-fatal trip to the goblin cavern and the horrors which lie in wait there, of the scouting group that we defeated at Three Cedars, and of the rapidly amassing threat gathered in Lochaid. He sat quietly and listened as we spoke, and then he told us of similar reports Grundach had recently delivered to him. The party discussed the matter, and decided that more information about the Bowmen forces would be needed to plan any sort of attack. Naturally, Sorscha and I volunteered to scout out Lochaid that very night.

Under cover of darkness

Sneaking into Lochaid under cover of night, we found the North road barricaded, with five seasoned bowmen standing sentinel around a bonfire. All seemed alert; focused on the task of keeping watch over the entrance. Sorscha and I decided to scout separate sides of the perimeter so that we could cover more territory, faster. She went East; I, West.

As I walked through the cover of the forest, I looked up and noticed a blind had been set up in the trees above, with a single Bowman acting as lookout. They had rigged up a zipline for quick descent from the blind to the forest floor, some dozens of yards away. I moved deeper into the woods to give the blind a wide berth, and circled back around, inward toward the Blackstone building. On my way I noticed more blinds, spread every 60 feet or so. They seemed to be in a perimeter close to the town.

Walking up close enough to get a look at the large, dark stone building, overgrown with vines and brush, I heard a loud whistling sound. My shoulder jumped slightly as I was hit with an arrow, and I looked out across the forest at a Bowman in another blind which I had failed to spot, more than 100 feet away. As the alarm went up through Lochaid, and Bowmen descended on my position from every direction, I went invisible and moved slowly, quietly, further into the woods.

Sneaking a bit further South, I was able to spot the location of two more blinds, a barricade on the West road, and a few more bonfires. I did not see the captives from earlier that night. I did, however, see a number of supply crates near the Eastern edge of town. Feeling that I had gathered enough information, and not wanting to alert the Bowman to our presence further, I skirted back around the Western woods to meet up with Sorscha near the North road. As I crept from the edge of the woods, a hand gripped my shoulder, and I jumped half out of my skin. I turned to see Sorscha smirking, as she scolded me for alerting the enemy. Damned dark-elf is always getting the better of me!

… one falls into the frying pan

After making it back to Temple Rise and giving Exelar a run-down of the Bowman forces, their positions, their numbers, and their patrol pattern, we slept for what remained of the night. In the morning, I brought the whistling arrow (I had recovered it from my shoulder and put it into my bag the night before) to the blacksmith, Ulrich, and asked him if he could make more like them. He said that he would try, but it may take a couple of days. After that, I asked him for his assistance in convincing Balk to join me in preparing our defenses at the Spire.

Working through the day, Balk, Grundach, and I fortified the Spire as much as possible. Balk found several large, sturdy, relatively dry logs in the woods, and stacked them up such that he could kick them down the hill and into the road. If our enemy pursues us tonight, they will regret making it as far as the Spire. To make the logs a bit more lethal, we doused them with a keg of oil from Temple Rise, so that they can be set alight. Grundach gathered some boulders into cover behind the ruined walls of the Spire. I kept watch, helping the other two as needed.

Our plan is to strike in the dark of night. As the Bowmen stand watch at their bonfires, Sorscha, Lazar Namaa (the Ranger), and myself will sneak to the East side of Lochaid. Sorscha will encompass the bonfire there in a globe of darkness using her dark-elf wizardry. Lazar and I are tasked with taking out the sniper in the nearby blind. I will likely also assist in dispatching the Bowmen around the fire.

As the alert goes up on the East side of Lochaid, Xareth will douse the North bonfire in darkness, and I imagine that he and Hiraishin-sama will make quick work of the Bowmen there. After this, we plan to head back to Temple Rise. If any Bowmen are foolish enough to follow, we have a contingent of fighters at the ready in and around the Spire. Once we are clear of the road, Balk will set the logs on fire and kick them down the hill into the oncoming Bowmen. If any remain after that, they will have us to answer to, plus Grundach, the lady Ranger, and, if they manage to make it further up toward Temple Rise, Nathaniel and his growing posse of bodyguards, to contend with.

Yes, if all goes as planned, we will strike a solid blow to the Bowmen forces. By striking preemptively, we may very well be avoiding a very big fire. Let us just hope that doing so does not land us directly in the frying pan…

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An Escape. New Threats.
Sorscha

A tagnik’zur. A real one, unfortunately, and not a spell-spawned illusion. After eliminating the priestess, Hershel and myself were in a cavern spur with no other exit.

We were dead. And this freed up our options.

I gambled on the deep serpent’s nature and engaged it in conversation. Beginning with flattery, I was able to convince it to call off tentacled creatures. Though oddly, it said that it could only restrain them a short time. Talking only distracted the creature for moments and I wasn’t able able to obtain useful information from it. As the held creatures began to break free, the dragon suggested that we walk out to waterfall pool to speak with its ally and “bring us in alignment”. Knowing that it could compel us, and seeing an opportunity opening, I quietly signaled to Hershel and we walked out willingly.

As we walked out, the tagnik’zur confirmed the fear I had when we first came back to these caverns the nature of its ally. The serpent was working with a zhuanth’uss, a race of old ones that surfacers call an aboleth. It could be seen lurking in the pool as we approached. Unexpectedly, several of our companions already ringed the pool ledge as we approached, including the Xeroth and the warrior and wizard cousins. Apparently they had set off from Temple Rise shortly after we did.

If we had a chance to escape and retain our sanity, it was now. Once we had taken up positions, I locked gaze with each of the others…and ran. All of us took flight. With my training, I pulled ahead. When there was enough blocking the view of the pool cavern, I ducked into a side passage and waited for the others to pass.

Everyone save Xeroth had gone by when I heard an utterance of Dark Speech, accompanied by a blast of power. Then. a dragon’s angry roar and a scream. The warlock stumbled into the corridor, flayed open and bleeding out from great raking wounds. Taking the chance, I ran up, forced a healing potion on him to keep him alive, and dragged him out of the cavern.

We encountered the old woman on the raid again on the way back. Though I still do not trust her, I could not leave my wounded allies there on the chance that my suspicions were correct. After several “fate readings”, we continued on to Three Cedars and Lochaid.

Lochaid is now a closer threat. We had to give the ruins a wider berth, as Bowmen and mercenaries in their employ are now occupying it in force. I did not see Cutter, whose blade I still have, but I know he was there. We need to decide how to deal with them and so soon, before we are overrun. We made it back to the Spire and Temple Rise quietly, more aware of our precarious position in these lands.

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Final Words
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

Day 1

We defeated our enemies at the Spire, and gathered supplies from the dead for use by the living. We thought it wise to dispose of the bodies, so we piled them up to burn them at the Spire’s base. There was a need for guards to ensure that the flames did not spread to the surrounding forest, so I, Nathaniel, and the old Watchman volunteered. Someone approached the Spire from the forest, and I fired an arrow to drive them off. With such small numbers, we could not afford to take a chance with any strangers approaching.


As evening approached, we heard the sounds of a large beast in the forest. Likely, the beast was drawn by the scent of burning meat. On seeing the size of it, I panicked and began to run back to the safety of Temple Rise. Nathaniel followed, and we made it back to town alive. Shortly thereafter followed the Watchman, who had stayed behind at the Spire to frighten the beast off with his crossbow. I am ashamed of my fear.

Day 2

After rest and some discussion with Hiraishin-sama, Sorscha and I decided to return to the goblin caves, where the message from the Drow woman was found. We debated bringing Xar’eth along, but decided that using stealth was our best option, and Sorscha and myself were the two best suited to that task. We skirted around the Ruins of Lochaid, noting that there was a large band of mercenaries at the southern edge of town as we did so. We managed to remain quiet enough to get to the forest unseen. As we left, we heard shouts from the south as if the brigands had heard us, but we made haste toward Three Cedars.

Sorscha talked with the councilmen of Three Cedars, and they exchanged news of current events. The people of the town have not been bothered by goblins since the group cleared the cave. Maybe this means that the way will be clear…

Day 3

We feasted and a stayed the night at Three Cedars. In the morning, Sorscha and I headed for the goblin caves. On our way, we found a traveler’s wagon, and middle-aged woman outside hanging clothes and cooking food. From a good distance off, and hiding in the shadows, we discussed whether we should approach this woman, or attempt to go around her unseen. As we whispered, she called out to us and bid us to come join her, and we decided that we could not sneak by unseen after all.

We approached, and the woman offered us some roasted rabbit and potatoes. She asked us to sit down and spend 30 minutes to talk with her. Sorscha and I shared suspicious looks, and denied her request. We started to continue on, but she stopped us again, threw some of the food into a sack, and bade us to take the food with us. Again, we declined, and as we walked away, I heard a pounding coming from inside the wagon. A little further on, I glanced back and found the woman glaring after us. I feel that our mistrust was well placed.

The Cave Entrance

With the light of the morning sun at our backs, we climbed the stairs to the cave’s main entrance. From a distance off, we saw the glass-eyed stare of dead goblins on watch at either of the cave’s open alcoves. They did not appear to see us, so we climbed back down the stairs to scout out the river entrance.

Walking into the river entrance of the cave, it was too dark for me to see, but I heard something slithering in the darkness and a splashing in the water. Sorscha informed me that there were six goblin zombies by the lift, and that she feared the slithering thing may be something called an Aboleth. As we attempted a quiet retreat, a monster erupted from the water blocking the cave entrance in front of us. It was a large insect, with tentacles on its face, and it smelled of death. Sorscha stood between me and the beast, and readied herself for battle. As the foul thing approached, she hit it hard with her fists, and it went limp as if stunned. I took the opportunity to fire an arrow at its head, and Sorscha finished it off with a flurry of blows to its body.

With the monster disposed of, we decided to attempt to take out the goblin zombies. Sorscha crossed the river and circled around behind them, as I lit two torches and threw them to opposite sides of the cave so I could see. Sorscha came up behind the group and hit one of the zombies hard enough to knock it to the ground, and I stood off to the other side and prepared to fire on the group. When none of the zombies moved, we paused to assess the situation. Sorscha walked over, and informed me that she had seen such a thing before. These goblins appeared to be under the effects of a simple spell known to her as Scarerigor, which from a distance gave all the appearances of animated undead, but did not actually go so far as to make the corpses move or attack. She also mentioned that this was commonly paired with an alarm spell, so I suggested that we go through one of the side alcoves by the front door. If these corpses were alarmed, whoever made them likely knew we were down here.

Inside the Caves

With some difficulty (for me), we made our way into the right-hand alcove and past the scare-rigored goblin. As I stepped into the cave, the light from my torch was caught by a network of quartz and other materials in the rock of the cave walls, and patterns of light and shadow caused me to swoon and lose my sense of direction. When I recovered, Sorcha was gone, and I continued through the caves with a slight sense of dizziness and nausea.

I approached the center of the cave, where a stream of water fell into a whirlpool that likely fed the waterfall at the Lift entrance. Mist filled the room, reflecting the light from my torch back into my eyes, and making it difficult to see. Through the haze to my right, I saw the form of Sorscha standing in the mist. At that moment, a loud voice, apparently in the Drow tongue, reverberated off the walls of the cave and bombarded my ears. I looked toward another opening in the cave wall, and saw a serpentine figure in the mist, flanked by the forms of what looked like two decrepit, elderly humans.

I moved up to get nearer to the serpentine figure. Moving closer, I could see that the creature was a kobold. I dropped my torch in a spot where it would provide illumination, and turned invisible as I walked up to get into position to take a shot at it. As I did so, I noticed many shapes moving in the dimness of the cave around me. Tentacles writhed in the pool in the middle of the room, a scaled wing descended from the ceiling, and otherworldly sounds assaulted my mind. I got my wits about me enough to draw my bow, and fired at the kobold, but the shot deflected and struck one of the humans in the head with a popping sound, followed by a gurgling hiss, as if my arrow had punctured an over-sized water skin.

Sorscha approached the kobold and grabbed it, attempting to throw it into the cave wall; the creature did not move. The forms of the decrepit humans shifted, and the skin began to rend from their bones as masses of tentacles popped out from their skulls and backs. It took all of my will to stop from running out of the cavern screaming at that moment. As the horrors burst from their human shells, I looked behind me to see a dragon of some kind approaching, and taunting me in my native language.

Sorscha appeared to see something beyond the kobold, and charged into the next room for an attack. I took a hard look at the creature and noticed a shimmer in its appearance, and the illusion melted away. Not wanting to think of my chances for survival alone in this room, I charged in after her, rolling as I ran between the tentacled horrors so that their attacks swung wildly in the air above me. Luckily, the light from my torch carried over into this room through one of the quartz windows in the cave wall, and I was able to see the drow that Sorscha was fighting. As I finished my charge, I used my energy to turn invisible once more, dropped my bow, drew my short sword, and slashed the drow across the chest. Sorscha followed up with a round-house kick to the stomach, and an uppercut that caused the drow to bite off her own tongue as her neck snapped.

Quickly, we looted the body and took anything we might need. I looked behind us, expecting the illusions of tentacled horrors and dragons to melt away. They did not oblige…

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Cedars, Lifts, and Goblins
Sorscha

Sorscha:

The surface continues to be…interesting. After the light-blasted waste that was Arahas, the limitless sea that cracked the Valkyrie, and the greenery covered gullies and hills, I’m now residing in a half-collapsed village with a magic bridge and half-starved refugees. But it hasn’t been boring.

The village, referred to as Temple Rise, turns out to have been run by a priesthood. Little reminder of home. Following Exelar’s lead, we struck out to make contact with a nearby village of one of the refugees. In trade for supporting our position and reforming a defunct militia group call the Watchmen, this village, Three Cedars, requested our aid against goblin raiders.

Living in a cavern complex nearby, the goblins were no trouble, lower creatures that they are. But there were a couple of surprises. The first was an ogre calling itself Balk. The goblins had it chained up, operating a lift into the upper complex. Once it…he… was freed, he decided he’d follow me as the newest master. Which leads to the other surprise: the drow in control of the goblinoids.

I managed to stay unseen by what I assume to have been a yathrin. Although I’m far from home, I still refuse to take chances with them. While Exelar confronted her, I took on their slaver and freed a group of captives. With the drow driven off, as a group we were too damaged and left hastily before fully searching the area. And yes, the ogre came with us when we left.

My thoughts now dwell on the drow in the caverns and their connection to the fahliell that has joined us. He claims that she was a scion of an opposing family. And that his purpose here is to seek advantage for his own house after theirs gained advantage and humbled his. Exelar accepts him, so I must follow his guidance. Pragmatism demands attention to him.

Oh, and on one of our passes through the abandoned village called Lochaid, we encountered a group of mercenaries who we assume are working for the Bowmen. We took wounds, but I humbled their leader and took his vain weapon. I expect to see him again.

Now, we need to go back to those caverns and find out what threats might array against us from the Long Dark.

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The Journey to Temple Rise
Journal Entry of Exelar Vitarri

I, Exelar Vitarri, Cleric of Heironious, was finally making my way back to the Shining City. Hopefully the girl, Sorscha, will finally convince my superiors I am ready to become a paladin. But first we will have to survive this storm that came out of nowhere and has been rocking The Valkyrie like a toy.

Waking up on the beach proved that Heironious still had plans for me, seeing the girl proved paladin hood was in those plans. The set of footprints proved there was at least one other survivor but no more. After gathering what we could and setting a pyre for the bodies that washed ashore we decided to move to higher ground.

When we reached higher ground there were two things that we noticed, the group of abnormally large humanoids that arrived on the beach we had just left, and the long abandoned village with smoke coming from the chimney of one rickety hovel on the other side of the ridge we’re on. Being outnumbered we decided to make for the village, which luckily had one occupant, the Valkyrie’s skipper, Captain Kincaid.

Still outnumbered, we head inland where we are cut off by the humanoids, seemingly a beastly cross of some rare orc and possibly ogre, but with cunning eyes that hinted at a simmering intelligence. Not ready to surrender we make a stand that is cut short by the fortuitous arrival of what can best be described as a large, dire bear, who apparently has a strong dislike for our enemy which makes our escape possible.

Finding an old road we follow it until we come upon a small makeshift fort where we some traveling merchants had made camp. Unfortunately, rest is not long, soon after our arrival the orcs that have been tracking us (Voursche?) and human bandits lay siege to our little oasis. With the merchant guards help we fend off the initial attack, but reality sets in that staying here is a death sentence. With some of the guards sacrificing themselves, a small group set out.

We didn’t get far before they realized what happened and set off after us. Barely able to stay ahead of them, our numbers dwindled. With the rain and humanoids seeming to never stop, we prayed for a respite, which was short lived. Arriving at an old, abandoned town with sounds of battle echoing from it we knew the day was not over.

Inside the town I made contact with some men that have a group of people trapped in a building. The men are affiliated with those helping the Voursche; The Bowmen. After a battle that concluded with Sorscha inadvertently dropping a building on the leader, we join up with some refugees led by the sole, remaining member of The Watchmen, a militia comprised of a group of villages from the area. We travel with them just up the road to the ruins of a small, time worn town surrounded by rivers, known to the locals as Temple Rise.

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