The World of DaNar

A Silent Man
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

Grandfather taught me everything that I know of seiji; the subtle dance whose goal is the maintenance or exchange of power between the elite, the wake of which sweeps up the common folk to rise to glory or die in bloody war. Sadly he died when I was quite young, but I do remember one thing he used to say: “A silent man is the best one to listen to”.

The first time I heard this I laughed, and Grandfather half-heartedly laughed along with me. Then his face became stern. “Why is this funny?”
“It is best when a man does not speak; it is best to hear a man who does not run his mouth,” I answered.
Chigau yo! It means that the silent man should not be ignored! Always pay attention to those who are quiet; they are often the puppet masters of the court.”

Sowing the seeds

Standing in the Temple, I reflected on this. The Drow had gained a stronghold of great power and I barely batted an eye. He spoke little, though when he did it was with care to deflect what was asked of him. He gathered power. He was close to us, but we did not know him. I should have paid attention to these signs sooner.

I decided to discuss my fears with Exilar, Sorscha, Nathaniel, and Ser Seifer, before they departed to meet Meiko Sama in Polga. I told Exilar of Nathaniel’s discovery that the robed Bowman in Trask’s group wore robes identical to the ones Xar’eth had procured from the Spire, and that Trask himself bears a demon-head tattoo similar to the Drow’s. I also made sure to mention that when we met Trask for the first time in Hemlock Field, we lost track of Xar’eth, and did not get a clear look at the robed figure with Trask. The Drow was wearing the robes from the Spire at that time.

Exilar was not convinced that there was any clear connection between the Drow and the Bowmen. He seemed to think that, despite the evidence I had given, there was no reason to think that Xar’eth was being dishonest about anything. I made a note to discuss whether Exilar might be under some sort of magical influence by the Drow with a more select group of my companions after this meeting adjourned. Nathaniel also voiced doubts as to whether the robed figure with Trask indicated any involvement by Xar’eth. The robes, he said, were from the Spire, but a thousand years ago the Spire had been an academy, and it was likely that sets of robes from there had made their way around to different ruins in the Ruin during the intervening millennium. That combined with the Bowmen actively searching ruins of late made it likely that this was coincidence.

Good points, all, but I countered that the coincidences mounting around Xar’eth needed to be addressed, and soon. If he was allied with Trask, whom we were to go and kill, we needed to know immediately the Drow’s level of involvement, if any. To further my point, I asked Sorscha if her people could generally be considered as trustworthy, to which she burst out in a mad cackle. “They can be trusted to do what is best for themselves. If an alliance serves their interest, so be it. If things change and betraying that alliance would gain them power or position, so be it. Exceptions to this among my people are rare in the extreme.”

I also divulged all the details I had gathered from my foray into the Spire. Xar’eth’s “cousin” had demon tattoos similar to him. He identified me without looking at me, which indicated to Ser Seifer that there may be some sort of scrying active in the tower. He was brewing a concoction whose ingredients included mushroom, which Nathaniel said may indicate poisons. There was also a strong smell of sulfur. This put the knight on-edge, and he and the wizard said “Demons” in unison, voices grim.

In the end, Sorscha and Seifer seemed to show support for me investigating the Spire further. Seifer added that if I were to come up against demons I would need a weapon of cold iron. Nathaniel advised he thought it best not to disturb the Drow’s privacy, to which I replied with an incredulous look. Exilar still seemed to feel that there were not enough indications to warrant a second search of the Spire, or even to warrant distrust of Xar’eth. To Hell with the paladin’s sanctimony; I am going to investigate.

Inside the Scarlet Spire

After my companions boarded the Ironclad airship, my first step was to inspect the Temple Archives. Xar’eth had often been seen poring over books down there, but no one had ever seen him come or go. I searched the room from top to bottom looking for any false walls, hidden doors, or secret passages. There were none, though I did find a small vault door secreted away behind a stack of Thyatian tablets. After finding that the vault door was a facade, removing it, and checking a separate inner door for traps, noting a ring of divine script around it, I used my skills to unlock the inner door. Inside there were 6 books which appeared to be written in ancient Thyatian, and 10 scrolls which, at a cursory glance, looked divine in nature. I found a satchel in which to store them, and headed to speak with Gruendoc about a cold iron weapon.

Finding Gruendoc just outside the smithy, taking inventory of our supply, I greeted him and delivered the satchel. “Keep this in a safe place for Exilar when he returns,” I said. Then I told him of what I had found at the Spire, and that I meant to return to see what else I could discover. I asked him if we might have any cold iron weapons, after mentioning the possibility of demons. He showed me what we had, and I selected a cold iron longsword, which I strapped to my back. I made to leave and Gruendoc stopped me, “If ye need a hand with tha’ dark elf devil ye need only ask and ol’ Gruendoc will help ye’. I lost more’n a few of my kin to his kind o’er the years.” I bowed silently, turned, and made my way out of the Rise.

Before trying to enter the Spire proper, I felt it prudent to inspect the area around it to see if any changes had been made. None had, so I moved on to scouting out the tower exterior. I saw Xar’eth’s cousin in a window near the top of the tower, so I fired an arrow into a second-floor window, to see if the sound would make him stir. He moved, but the pace of it was unhurried and I felt he was merely going to a different room rather than responding to the arrow. I listened for alarms, but heard none.

I fired another arrow, this one on the 4th floor, and focused my ki, sending body and spirit sailing to where the arrow had just landed. As my disembodied self crossed the threshold of the Spire window, I felt a twisting sensation, and landed staggered on the floor of a room of living quarters, which I knew from my first incursion into the Spire. This was the 6th floor, not the 4th. And I now faced the dark elf who Xar’eth claimed was his cousin.

“Well hello again,” the dark elf said. He looked similar to Xar’eth, though his features were not as hard in the eyes.

I responded in my native tongue, “Well, as you said when last we met, if you mean to do me harm I would be harmed. I know introductions are unnecessary, but my name is Hiroshima Sakai, and I have been tasked with discovering more about Xar’eth’s cousin and his intentions here in Exilar’s realm.”

He responded in kind, in flawless Honshugo, “Well. I have informed Xar’eth of your arrival. He wishes me to tell you that if you want to visit the Spire, you should use the front door like a normal visitor. If you trespass again, you shall be dealt with… harshly.
That being said, I am Phazeuroth.”

“Well met, despite the threats. When did you arrive here?”

“I arrived here about a week ago. Maybe a little longer. Can I aid you somehow?”

I thought back on what happened a week or so ago, and realized that Phazeuroth probably arrived here when the tower was rebuilt. Switching to Vilholman, I asked “What have you and Xar’eth been working on here?”

Again he responded fluently, this time in Vilholman, “Research. Why are you not with your allies?”

“I was needed to stay behind and help defend against any potential Bowman incursion. It was thought that they may not be genuinely headed to the Cascades by a number of us.” My eyes went to the tattoos on his arms, of similar design to those on Xar’eth’s face, “What is the significance of your demon tattoos?”

“Personal. If there is nothing else, it is time for you to depart.”

“Hm. I smelled sulphur the last time I was here. I have spoken to some who indicated this smell might be associated with demonic events. Would you happen to know anything of summoning demons?”

“I know a few things, but there are no devils here.”

“I didn’t ask of devils. I asked of demons. And I didn’t inquire as to if they were here, I asked if you know how to summon them.”

“No demons are present either. I know some things of summoning.”

Straining against my urge to swing my cold iron blade into his stone-walling face I took a breath and looked at a series of frescoes and other art pieces on the walls. They depicted various vistas of mages helping in great battles, presumably from the time of the Thyatian Empire. I started walking toward the stairwell that led to the rest of the tower, “Thank you for your cooperation. I’ll see myself out." As I bit off the last word I turned and took one step toward the stairway leading down. With a stomach-wrenching motion I was teleported out of the tower and found myself walking on the road. I resolved that moment to find the secrets those two had hidden in that Spire. Even if it killed them.

Preparing for Betrayal

I followed the advice Sorscha had given me before departing, and made sure that our fighting forces were prepared for the possibility of a Bowman attack. I informed Shepherd of the suspicion that Sorscha and I both held: the meeting with Meiko Sama and the information that Ser Seifer had been given about Trask heading to The Cascades were both part of a ruse by the Bowmen to catch us off-guard and without some of our most capable fighters. He frowned, “Hrmph. Can’t say I hadn’t thought of that possibility myself. Thought I was just being paranoid.”

Over the next days I alternated between scouting the forests along Lochaid, setting traps and marking them with subtle signs that I taught to the scouts so they would not fall prey to them, and watching over the Spire. In the nights Phazeuroth could usually be seen in the windows. During the day, no light shone through the window reveal anyone and if he moved about, he did so so quietly that I could not hear him.

I was out digging pit traps with Balk and a crew of four men when we heard the hum of the Ironclad airship overhead. I mopped the sweat from my brow, washed my hands and face in a nearby creek, and directed the workers to finish up the pit and go back to the barracks for a break, tossing them a few steel for rounds if they so desired. Heading back to Lochaid, I heard the loud clunk of the airship as it docked on the makeshift pylon that had been erected on the North side of town.

Exilar was exchanging urgent words with Xar’eth as they came down the ramp. I waited at the bottom until their conversation was finished, then approached the paladin and asked him to walk with me to a more private location where I could share information with him. As we turned to go, I saw the Drow look over his shoulder at us before hurrying off toward the Spire. Once in a private location, I told Exilar the information I gathered from the Spire, and news about the books and scrolls I found in the Archives. I made sure to highlight the fact that the Drow had been able to speak fluently in languages which should be esoteric to someone from the Underdark.

“Is that it? There’s nothing substantial to back up your claims there. Look, take Nathaniel and have him start translating the books you found. Make sure he studies them in a secure place; he is NOT to remove them. I have more important things to take care of.” He gave me a look like I had wasted his time, then walked off toward the Spire. Staring after the paladin and begrudging my role as errand-boy, I saw Nathaniel hurrying after him. I caught up with them, and told Nathaniel of the books and scrolls that I had found, and that Exilar wished for him to translate them. “Later,” he said, intent on catching up with the paladin.

The three of us arrived at the door of the Spire, Nathaniel huffing from the exertion it took to keep up with Exilar. “I h—gasp have something to tah— talk to you about, Exilar.”
“Later, I have business with the master of the Spire. Did Hershel tell you to take a look at those books?” the paladin said as he knocked on the large red door.
“Yes b-but I —”
“Then go take care of that. I will speak with you later.”
The door opened a crack and Xar’eth peeked out. “You said nothing of bringing guests.”
“I’m not,” Exilar said, and pushed his way through the door, slamming it in our faces behind him.
Nathaniel looked at me, face flush with frustration and impotent rage, and stormed off toward Temple Rise.
“You don’t even know where the books are!” I called after him as I walked to catch up.

A New Plan

After speaking with Greundoc about Exilar’s order and getting Nathaniel set up in a secure location, I walked to the smithy, Ulrich. I inquired as to the progress on the signal arrows, which I had asked him to make shortly before we had been attacked by Immand Khan. To my great surprise, the loss of his arm in the battle had not made him forget about this obligation, and he gave me a quiver of forty. These have the potential to aid us tremendously during any attack on the Bowmen. Using signal arrows of their design to misdirect their forces during an infiltration could be crucial to success, if planned well.

Sorscha entered town trailing forty fighting men. The half-drow woman came over to me and informed me that Exiar was calling a meeting for all members of the Watchmen. Though I hadn’t officially taken on that title yet, she was sure that my input would be welcome. We all went into the great hall of the Temple, and Exilar began a discussion about how to best utilize the fighting men, whom he said were from Angler’s Cove.

The Covemen revealed that there were several camps composed of 40 to 60 Bowmen apiece, all under Trasks control. These camps were spread out across an area of the Wildlands between the Rise and Angler’s Cove. Initially, the fighting men had been brought in on word that we may need help to take the Cascades, but after Sorscha reported to them that the mission had been a failure, they proposed that we instead harry these Bowman camps. Thus we made a plan that Ser Seifer would lead a strike force along with the Covemen to raid a Bowman encampment. Whether or not he was able to kill all the Bowmen therein, we were to put all their supplies that we could not use to the torch.

Exilar adjourned the meeting, asked the Watchmen inner council to stay a short while as he prayed on his next course of action, and retreated to his offices. Nathaniel followed him shortly thereafter, but was turned out of the room, again frustrated, only moments later. A few minutes after that, Exilar emerged from his office holding the soul gem that Nathaniel had found in the ruins of a building in Lochaid. He stated that the gem may have the capability to allow us to scry on the Cascades using the Spire, and that he intended to go there to use it. He stated that any of us who wished to follow may do so.

Ser Seifer immediately raised his objections to the paladin, stating that we did not know what evil power that gem could contain, and using it inside a font such as the Scarlet Spire could lead to destruction far greater than we should risk for a possible glance into enemy territory. Nathaniel cursed audibly, and stormed out of the hall.

View
Demons amongst us and within
Journal entry by Ser Seifer

The bowmen. Who are they really? Why are so many of them willing to follow Kroenen amd not the organization heads? Meiko Sama had informed us of the plans Trask and the others had. Gather at the Cascades. We were not equipped to assault a town as we where, but catch him on the road and we had a chance. After the threat to Nathaniel Brommson from Meiko, i inquired as to “what stylenof fighting Trask and herself were trained in”. She told me of the sword style of the far east and i knew i was ill prepared to face that as i had never seen nor studied it before. As for single combat, i asked if Trask had that much honor to face me in single combat to which she replied, “he has that much pride and confidence”. Much different in my eyes and could be exploted.

At the mention of Honor amongst the bowmen, Exelar Vitarri replied with “the Bowmen have no honor”. Although it was hushed under his breathe, it was still audible to me amd Meiko. This prompted and arguement with Exelar and myself. I don’t understand how a child thinks his actions and words have little consequence when he knows nothing on the topic at hand. His sheltered views, being brought up in a temple and not having the full experience of people of other cultures, is leading him and in turn us down a path that is surely to cause tensions with everyone around him. If he truely felt confidence in appointing me as the General of his armies, he should go back to his books and leave matters of war and conflict to me.

The hunt for Trask has begun. Aboard the airship, we traveled north towards the mountain pass and the Cascades. As we had many hours to pass, I thought my time would be well spent studying and get used to the Thyasian blade. Upon finishing my prayers to Altua to watch over me as i ventured into the unknown, i began wielding the blade. What seemed like seconds passed and i “awoke” to Sorscha in front of me “dancing” and using me as a training partner. I was unaware this had transpired until i asked her what was going on. According to Caleb, i was practising with the blade in such a fluid way, Sorsha decided to utilize that and train herself. However this happened, i was both amazed and a little frightened at the same time.

As night fell, we realized how difficult our mission was. There was no moonlight, no real starlight, and the rain was constant and hindering our vision. Only with the flash of lightning strikes could we see enough to press on. Lights flickered in the distance. Not very many like a town, but more than a traveling party. We dare not risk losing our greatest asset, the airship, this early in the game with Trask. We could not see him or his men, and we did not want to risk being seen if we flew closer to the cascades. Defeated and disappointed, we headed back for Lochaid.

On our way back we crossed over the mountains in order to make better time. In doing so be came upon a great statue carved straight out of the mountain side. A great dragon, with mouth open and claws bared. There seemed to be something else carved on top of the dragon but had since been removed. Between the flashes of lightning we saw what had been removed. Dwarven warriors posed to show defeating to the dragon. The meaning of this is unclear to me but it appears to have ben carved to show a great victory over a dragon by the dwarven people. Perhaps there is more to this.

Finally reaching Lochaid, i had work to do. Men to train and an army to prepare. If I was going to find Trask no matter what, I would need well trained soldiers beside me to complete this task. Only hours had passed while training the men and women soldiers of the Watchmen before a scout had come to me to report of “a group of people heading this way”. Clearly this scout was new or an imbecile because that was all he had to report. He did not know if they were friend or foe, or if they were villagers or soldiers, or even how many. Frustrated, I instructed Caleb to gather the men i placed under his command and ride out with me to investigate. Low and behold they were soldiers from Anglers Cove coming to our aid having heard news from Meiko Sama that Trask was on the march and we meant to take him on. Forty strong they were and i was glad to have them. Already trained and willing to strike out at the bowmen that were ravaging this land. I instructed the captain of the group to find Exelar and report to him and that we would be needing his services very soon.

Barely getting back to training the army, i was interrupted by my companions who informed me that they were going to use the magics in the Spire to try and locate Trask. Even now, in times like this, my companions dabble in magics far to dangerous and unknown. Someone with sense and experience in such things had to keep a wary eye on them. Besides, I wanted to know what that mendacious, leasing-monger, rakefire of a drow was up to. (insert events to follow. Whoever played Seifer please, or Damon)

I met up with Exilar and the others on the edge of Temple Rise and we proceeded apace to the Spire. Hershel informing us along the way of his encounter with Xar’eth’s cousin, one Phazueroth. This just keeps getting better.

View
Nothing But Reminiscence and Rage
Excerpt from the Journal of Nathaniel Bronnson

This leg of my journey in this constantly wet and dreary land started out like most others I’ve had here; full of apprehension and uncertainty. Our meeting with the Bowman lieutenant went as smoothly as expected. My own attempts at trying to show the horrors I witnessed at Three Cedars were were quashed by my own allies. Though thinking back on it, I did not see the tension in the Bowman woman. Had I cast that spell, it surely would have devolved into a brawl that we were not equipped to handle.

Following that, we received the disappointing news that our potential allies, within what I had hoped were an honorable faction within the Bowmen, would not be aiding us in removing the blight on the Wildlands known as Ivar Trask. The best we got from the lame sods was the promise that MAYBE they wouldn’t interfere if we were winning the fight with Trask and his men. After a tense moment between our hardheaded leader and Meiko Sama, we went our separate ways.

Even with this disappointing news, we decided to take the flying vessel of the Ironclad to the Cascades in hopes of finding Trask on the roads, where he and his men would be spread out and vulnerable. Sadly, that was not to be. We arrived at what we believed to be the Cascades in the dead of night. The darkness was oppressive and the rain soaked us to the bone. We were unable to find Trask and his men on the open roads due to this groups inability to see clearly in the darkness; An advantage that Trask and his men have over us. With the fear of having the skiff shot out of the sky before we even found our target, we made our way back to Temple Rise, our blades clean of blood and our hearts heavy with a sense of missed opportunity and failure.

After our return to Temple Rise I once again made it my mission to study the soul gem artifact that I am convinced houses the soul of a great wyrm silver dragon, one who voluntarily chose to reside within the gem. Sadly, my comrades scoffed at the idea. They assumed that whatever the creature was, it was probably lying to me and that I was not to be trusted with gem. The damn monk made that point very clear when she waltzed into my attempts at communing with the dragon inside, decided that such magics were not to be trifled with, and beat me into unconsciousness and absconding with the gem to bring to Exelar. But this was some time ago and I believed I had now proven my self much more capable a mage than the group initially thought me to be. I felt that I had proven this several times over. So, I went to Exelar once more to ask him to live up to his end of the agreement we made when I finally decided to become an official member of the watchmen under his command. I had asked for his trust, I was told i would have it, and with that in mind, I asked him for permission to take and study the gem again, this time under the watchful eye of Ser Seifer and the monk. That door was once again closed to me as I was told to continue waiting for my chance at getting my hands on the gem. I still think that it is the key to unlocking the mystery of the lost empire in the Wildlands. Exelar then proceeded to walk off and take care of other matters.

It was later in the day that Exelar, Sorscha, Ser Seifer, Caleb, Wulfgar, and myself decided to pay a visit to the reformed Spire that was inhabited by the other drow, Xar’eth. Exelar decided that we could possibly use the scrying device in the spire to locate Trask and so plan a strike against him. It seemed like a sound plan, though I was not aware that he had figured out how to get the thing operational.

Upon entering the spire, we were greeted by Xar’eth, who wore an uneasy look upon his face, despite his efforts to hide it. We made our way to the main chamber that housed the magical scrying device deep underground. Sometimes I forget how stifling underground abodes can be. This place seemed to have a weight to it as well. It was as if I could almost feel the thousands of tons of dirt and stone above me. As I watched Exelar approach the scrying device, I saw him pull out the very gem I had petitioned him to study. It was the one that I was told time and again was too dangerous to work with alone. He then proceeded to say what looked like a small prayer over the gem before inserting it into a slot at the base of the device. It fit perfectly. At that moment, I was appalled by his decision to just go ahead and install a gem I thought he knew nothing about after touting to me about its possible dangers. At that moment, I realized that he had hypocritically denied me my chance to study it and opted to do so on his own without my help. My anger was short lived though, as what happened next will live with me for the rest of my days.

The gem seemed to meld with the device. It seemed to have made a connection with Exelar for a brief moment. Then our leader opened his eyes and told us that there was a dragon within the Spire, a deep dragon disguised as a drow. Moments later, what appeared to be a drow came walking down the corridor towards us. I assumed it was the one that Hershel had told us about earlier, the supposed “cousin” of Xar’eth. This drow seemed to be surrounded by a preternatural darkness, one that would swallow you whole without a sound. It was then that the drow laughed. Not a laugh you would expect to hear from the elven kind, but a deep, rumbling, and sharp pitch all at once. We had encountered this dragon before, deep within the goblin caves. It was the one that had taunted Sorscha and Hershel while they had snuck about. It was the one that had kept an aboleth as company.

A moment later, I watched as two arrows seemed to suddenly sprout from Xar’eth’s side as he fell into a crumpled heap. I was stunned by the unfolding events and didn’t notice as the new drow began to change forms. I could only describe it as an abomination made from dark elf flesh, snake, and something ….wrong. As I regained my wits, the monk was already acting to fend off this new threat. Working adeptly with her shadow magic, she somehow produced a garrote of darkness about the creatures neck, though it proved to be ineffective. She then moved quickly to the side, out of direct line with the dragon. It was only after then that I realized that many of us, myself and Caleb included, were directly in line with what could only be a devastating breath weapon that dragons of all types are famous for. I began preparing for a spell to help fend off the creature. Those preparations were halted by the sight of Ser Seifer, charging towards the dragon, Thyatian sword in hand, bellowing a war cry.

As he drew closer to his intended target, the dragon unleashed his breath weapon upon us. A massive cone of caustic, deadly acid erupted from its maw, nearly engulfing Seifer. His blade seemed to somewhat protect him from the deadly attack, but the rest of us we not so lucky. As I stared wide eyed at what was surely to be my imminent death, my view was suddenly blocked by my cousin Caleb. In our home, the phrase “I am my brothers keeper, and he is mine” was drilled into our heads growing up. It was an important lesson on the importance and value of family that our fathers taught us. During this moment, our entire childhood flashed before my eyes. There was us running around as small boys, chasing one another with wooden swords or sneaking peeks at the maids in their chambers and hoping to get a glimpse of things we shouldn’t; the many nights and days spent talking about our futures as warriors in service to our homeland; how we would make our fathers proud. Then there was the day he looked at me proudly when I managed to cast my first cantrip. He was always at my side. To me we weren’t cousins, but brothers in the truest sense of the word. I then saw the flesh melt from my brothers skull as he put himself in the way to protect me from the dragons acid. He truly was my keeper. I failed my duty to be his.

I was pulled from my shock by the sound of the dragons screams as Seifer cleaved into it with his sword. My mind was swirling with emotions: rage, despair, and hopelessness. And with them, the driving urge to unleash destruction with one of the waves of destruction spells I had learned. I then regained my wits enough to instead launch a lighting bolt towards the vile creature that was responsible for best friends death. It struck home not once, but twice, as it bounced off of the surface of the corridor and hit home again. Regretfully, Seifer was once again in the way of the spell and took minor damage. At this moment, I felt a wondrous sensation as the gem resting under Exelars hand created a healing wave that cured me of most of my wounds from the acid. I took a moment to look down in the outrageous hope that somehow my cousin had been healed as well. Sadly, that was not the case.

My eyes were drawn towards the battle once again after hearing a cry to Heironeous. Exlear charged the dragon, with Wulfgar at his side, his sword aglow with a holy light. The attack struck home and finished the damnable monster off. I watched in horror as its body fell into a mass of abomination flesh. It was then that the creature’s body ripped open and what would be described as a kobold climbed forth. It emitted a shrill laugh before rising through the ceiling and out of our sight.

View
An Opportunity Missed. An Enemy Found.
Sorscha

The meeting with Meiko Sama did not seem particularly productive. Exelar wound up asking her about the Bowmen arrangement with the Vorsha, but the only information he got was that it was an arrangement with Khan’s faction. Meiko repeated her stance that we should not expect assistance from Kroenen’s faction, should we decide to pursue Trask into the Cascades. There was another tense moment as Exelar said under his breath that the Bowmen have no honor. This caused Meiko to tighten up as she called her company to leave and they walked back in the mist. The conversation about honor continued between Exelar and Seifer, getting a bit heated before it ended. This is unlike the behavior I normally anticipate from from him. I wonder what’s been going on back in the Rise while we were out that has brought this out.

This would all have to wait, as it was time to make our decision. Again, oddly enough, Exelar was reticent to go after Trask. He said that to do so would make us tools of the Bowmen, advancing their agenda against the other factions while refusing to do any of the work or take any of the risks themselves. I was taken off guard by his stance. I felt that taking Trask off the board would be a would be an unmitigated good. Even if doing so strengthened Kroenen’s position in the Bowmen, that was a more tolerable option for now than allow the corrupted core that ran them to get stronger. Regardless, he didn’t try to stop us from our pursuit. The time spent together around Carrion Hill seems to have aligned the rest of us. Chasing down Trask while he was vulnerable on the open road was a risk worth taking. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

Even leaving immediately after the meeting, by the time that the air skiff reached the Cascades, it was night. Though not am impediment for me, few others among the companions could operate without some sort of light. We scanned the road on the way up to the city, looking for signs of riders, and came up with nothing. We know that Trask can operate without light. It appears that the men with him were able to do so as well, and were taking full advantage of that fact. Because of the tree cover, we had to fly high enough that even I couldn’t make out the ground.

We continued up and saw fires lighting what should be watch points of the city. They were built in such a way to shed little illumination on their surroundings. Again with our position, there was little we could discern. Seifer had expressed concern that the skiff had been brought down before, and that if we got close enough to see details of the city, it could happen again. Especially as we know nothing about the layout, supply, or population of the settlement. We had come to strike at moving soldiers, not assault a fortification, so we didn’t have the preparation needed. I could see Seifer’s shoulders slump in defeat. Defeat, not in battle, but by circumstances. We gambled on catching Trask in transit and had lost. Now, with no reasonable options to move forward, we decided to return to the Rise.

A Short Trip Back
The trip back was quiet. The air on the ship was thick and no one felt like being the one to break it. Exelar was back by the cabin, head down in prayer. Seifer leaned over a side rail, watching the dark terrain flow past. I balanced on the prow of the ship, meditating and appreciating a view that I could never have anticipated. Quicker than expected, the firelight of Lochaid and the Rise emerged from the shroud of night. We landed in the town. With all the recent influx, we might need to start expanding and adding living area. Not something that I could have imagined when that ship first broke apart in the swells, regurgitating Exelar and myself onto the sand.

Exelar was off of the skiff first, I think he dislikes it for some reason, and was quickly met by a small group of villagers and elders. As I dropped off the edge of the skiff, I caught sight of green and blue cloth. Looks like they made him a flag. A nice sentiment; I wonder who he’s going to have hand it up? Thanking them, he handed it off to Gruendok as they dispersed and Hershel arrived with purpose in his step. The two of them started talking quietly and made their way to the Rise road. I started talking to Gruendok about our resources. Specifically, I asked him if we had any way of quickly sending messages to villages and other locations withing the basin. When he said that we didn’t, I began to form a list in my head. Hershel had paid for messenger birds of some sort while we were in Carrion Hill. We’ll need to obtain some, along with food, shelter, and keepers for them. We also needed scouts, not just patrolmen or rangers, to start gathering information and mapping our surroundings more thoroughly. This Eye of the Watch business was going to require work.

I was about to head up the hill, when I saw a group of people coming up road. I tensed up, ready to fight or flee, but it turned out to be a group from Angler’s Cove. They had come to meet with Exelar. Gruendok spoke to there leaders and then turned to escort several of them up the hill. I decided that it would be a good idea to follow. Coming up the road, we passed the Spire and I was again reminded of the mystery of its recreation and of its inhabitant. Xar’eth was drow, fully in every sense of the word. Though he had made no open move against us – as if that was proof in and of itself – he fully confessed that he was on the surface to find power to restore his family’s position. That made him dangerous in the wrong situation or when presented with the right opportunity. We kept walking.

The meeting with the Covemen was fairly brief. Or rather, was quick to the point. They had come suggesting, and requesting support for, an attack on Bowmen camps within the basin. It was a decent idea as soft targets like the encampments were a smarter target for us than assaulting a fortified position like the Cascades. Additionally, there was the chance that if we hit enough of them and caused enough damage, we might be able to draw Bowmen out from their city where they would be vulnerable. Maybe even a leader. And if none of them came out, we could still take resources and, forces, and material from them. It was a good idea. Seifer voiced his support and stated that he would lead the attacks. We’d need to arrange the specifics soon.

We broke the meeting, agreeing to conference again later, once some arrangements were made. Thinking we were done for now, I wandered outside, thinking more on our intelligence preparations, when Exelar and Nathaniel emerged from the temple, trailing most of our companions. Apparently, Xar’eth had previously discovered a scrying device in the Spire, but it wouldn’t work with another component. This requirement was thought to be the gem that we discovered weeks ago, that Nathaniel had fallen in thrall to and had been hidden away since. If the device is in the Spire, this could prove tricky. I decide to go with them.

Into the Spire
As expected, Xar’eth could not turn away all of us. He looked distinctly uncomfortable as we entered. On the way here, Hershel informed us, after already telling Exelar, that there was another drow in tower, one that claimed to be the cousin to our own. This did not bode well. Following the steps down, we went through a hall and into the larger, open chamber that contained the ornate framing of the scrying object.

Exelar pulled the softly glowing gem out of a pocket and slotted it into a matching divot on the device. His hand never leaving the gem, his eyes closed and he seemed to be praying or communicating with something. A moment later, his eyes snapped open with a new, subtle glow behind them. “There is a dragon here. From the depths and disguised as a drow.” At the same moment, I heard footsteps echoing from a hallway to the side of the staircase we’d descended. There was the intruder, a drow it would appear, but then it laughed. A deep, rumbling, and somehow sharp sound that could never be made by the thin frame it wore. I’d heard it before. It was the deep dragon from the goblin caves.

In an instant, I heard Xar’eth cry out in pain. Throwing a glance his way, I saw him crumpled in a bleeding heap on the ground, two arrows sunk nearly to the fletching protruded from his side. Hershel was nowhere to be seen. No time for that, we faced a true threat in the mad, ancient creature before us. Turning back, I could see even now that his form was melting almost, reshaping itself from a drow into an amalgamation of dark elf, serpent, and something else. For a moment, this thing is vulnerable. I shift my stance and pull a thread of shadow from the air. Twining it longer, I hurl it at the thing in the hallway. It wraps around its neck and cuts a deep furrow before dissipating into whisps. Anticipating a dragons deadly breath, I tumble to the side of the archway that leads into this room. I catch sight of Hershel, now against the wall opposite me, bow in hand.

With a shout of hatred, Seifer charged the beast. As he drew close, he brought down the Thyatian sword in an arc that would have cleaved most men in half. The blade glimmered in the dull light and sunk deep into the flesh of the changing dragon. It’s bellowing echoed of the walls of the chamber, nearly disorienting me, and in return for the wound, it retched forth a mass of stinking fluid that began eating away at everything it touched. Our position saved Hershel and myself from exposure, but the others weren’t so lucky. I anticipated that Seifer would take the brunt of the attack, being directly in front of the thing, but the mass of the acid appeared to diverge around his blade, sparing him the worst of the damage, though not all of it. The others were likewise struck, though they appeared to avoid some of attack. And then I saw Caleb.

Clearly, he had thrown himself in front of Nathaniel to shield him. The majority of his flesh was already sliding off his body into a puddle at his feet. The backplate of his armor was reduced to smoking edges of twisted steel. He died without a sound. Nathaniel pulled himself from his cousins remains and launched an arc of lightning into the thing. I could hear it thundering off the hallway edges and if reappeared outward, striking the dragon-thing again and glancing across Seifer’s shoulder. Wulfgar bellowed a warcry and charged the beast when suddenly a wave of pale light washed over the room, closing my comrades wounds. Finally, I heard Heironeous’ name called upon as Exelar barreled to the hall. A golden light suffused his sword as he brought it down and took the last of the wretched things life force.

The body of the thing slumped into a mass, not unlike the [[The Abomination Returns. A New Player. | abomination]] in the swamps. It’s carcass split open and there was a thing not unlike a kobold in shape. It uttered the chittering laughter that I remember from the goblin caves and rose like an arrow through the stone and earth of the spire, leaving a rancid ooze in its wake.

As we started to take stock, there was a thrumming in the air and Xar’eth’s body disappeared with a flash. Exelar looked toward the gem and then said aloud that he had been teleported outside the Spire. Seifer, Nathaniel, and Wulfgar ran up the stairs at hearing this. Exelar stepped toward the gem, laid his hand on it, and disappeared as well. Hershel had disappeared again, but I had no doubt that he, too was pursuing our ertswhile companion. In an instant, I was there alone with bodies of a friend and an enemy.

On a hunch, I too walked toward the gem, glowing in the embrace of the scryer. I reached my hand out toward it, but did not grasp it. A deep voice echoed in my head, demanding to know who I was, what I was doing. Before I could respond, the voice softened and identified me as “the other drow” and “the one Exelar” admires, then asked what I wanted. Looking over again at Caleb’s remains, I asked if it could return him to life. It could not. I was told that a feat of that kind had to be done by priests at the temple. We would have to find if the temple held any magicks capable of such a feat. I then asked where the others had gone and was told where. Concerned at being the only one left in the Spire after what had just happened, I asked it would be safe to leave the tower unattended. The voice in the gem did not seem entirely sure, so I asked it to move me to just inside the tower door.

A dizzying moment later, that’s exactly where I was. Taking a step forward, I could see the backs of Exelar and the others. Hershel stood facing opposite them, with a bloodied blade in hand. All of them were looking toward the ground. The only words I heard were from Hershel, asking, “Now what?”

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No Escape For The Wicked
Journal entry of Exelar Vitarri
The meeting with Meiko Sama ended shortly after the last few questions from Ser Seifer Garrow about the fighting style used by Trask, and mine about the deal the Bowmen have with the Vorshaa. I lost my composure for a second when the Bowmen and honor was mentioned in the same sentence, perhaps the pressure of my current position is causing me to crack. I will have to pray on this and apologize to Sir Seifer.

After the Bowmen departed we left to see if we could find Trask before his arrival at the Cascades. More time on this flying vessel was not what I wanted, but speed was more important than my comfort. We arrived at the Cascades during the night and locating Trask and his men proved to be more difficult than expected. Not feeling comfortable with the situation it was decided to not take the risk and head back to the Rise.

The trip back was peaceful as I prayed most of the time, but it did little to calm my emotions. Upon arrival at Lochaid I was met by people wanting questions answered and moments of my time. I spared a moment for Hershel so he could fill me in on any information he gained about The Scarlet Spire. He gained entrance and was teleported to a room with the cousin of Xar’eth Teken’und, after a brief discussion he was teleported out. He was warned any further intrusions would not go unanswered.

He also had discovered a hidden vault that contained several books and scroll that I wanted Nathaniel Brommson to have a look at. I made my way to the Spire to meet with Xar’eth before continuing with my meetings, but was surprised by a gift of a flag that combined both Heironious and the Watchmen. Gruendok was given the job of mounting the flag atop the Temple. Finally making my way to the Spire, Xar’eth let me in and informed me that although the Spire has been reformed the Scrying device was not functioning without the missing gem. I departed to make my way to retrieve the gem.

Nathaniel was looking at the recently discovered tomes when I arrived, he asked if it would be possible to further examine the Soul Gem. I agreed he could at a later date. A messenger arrived informing me a group from Anglers Cove numbering at least 40 wanted a word. A meeting was quickly set up at the Temple where they proposed they strike out at some men of Trask that had been waiting for him nearby. Agreeing that could draw him out of the Cascades we started planning.

Thinking the scrying device would give us much needed intel I got the gem and after some praying I conversed with the Dragon inside. Informing it of my intentions and the condition the Spire is in he agreed to help if he could. Several of us made our way to the Spire. Xar’eth led us down to the device, upon entrance to the Spire the gem reacted by vibrating and warming to the touch. Whether good or bad we would soon discover.

Upon placing the gem into the device I was immediately warned by Saanphariandr’onthiliax that there was a deep dragon inside the Spire. We felt the footsteps come from the hallway as the drow believed to be Phazeuroth accompanied by a preternatural darkness. Upon stating aloud I was aware that he is a dragon all hell broke loose. From out of nowhere two arrows appeared in Xar’eth and he collapsed, Sorscha appeared to attack the dragon from afar though she had no weapons. Sir Siefer immediately moved up on the dragon and with one swing dealt what would have been a death blow to many creatures but somehow it lived. In return the ceature spewed forth a cone of acid that Siefer somehow blocked part of with his sword but Caleb took the full brunt of when he tried to save Nathaniel.

Pushing Calebs body off himself, Nathaniel unleashed a lightning bolt at the dragon. His aim was true as he missed Sir Siefer but struck the dragon, fortunately it reflected off the wall and struck him again, unfortunately it relected again struck Sir Siefer before going off harmlessly. Wulfgar attacked him, we were healed by the gem, followed by me calling forth Heironious as I struck him down after which the skin split apart and a kobold congealed out of the rancid desiccation and disappeared into the ceiling like a poltergeist. Turning our attentions we were met by a weird scene of the body of Xar’eth getting almost ripped out of the Spire.

The dragon in the gem informed me he was outside, which I said aloud. As Siefer, Nathaniel, and Wulfgar ran up the steps I grabbed for the gem and was instantly teleported outside near a rising Xar’eth. He stated he was leaving his so-called friends, and I told him to surrender. He refused even after promising him fair treatment. Our conversation was cut short as a blade appeared in his chest and his blood splattered revealing Hershel behind him. We are now two companions down, the loss of Caleb will hurt. What to do with the body of Xar’eth, as he appears to be healing even now…
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The New Watchmen are Born
Journal entry by Ser Seifer

Finally we are all reunited back at Temple Rise. After about a week of being away, much had changed and there was much to discuss with Exelar. Because Three Cedars was burned to the ground and it’s surviving villagers without refuge, we had to take them in. Lochaid had become our own settlement built on the backs of the refugees and the blood of the Watchmen. Plans needed to be made and actions must be take to insure that these people are protected and they are allowed to live peacefully.

Commander Exelar was overwhelmed by the number of people that had urgent news and urgent matters to discuss with him. Sorscha was the first to notice this and before i could think of a plan she had placed herself between Exelar and the Elders from Three Cedars and had lead them away, talking with them about what their needs were and how we all could help. I am surprised by her more and more. She is nothing like her kin from my previous encounters with them. The skulking Xar’eth is more the type and to this day something bothers me about him. Sorscha however intrigues me. There is more to her than meets the eye i think.

After i had time to put own new "prisoner " in his cell, words were exchanged between Exelar and Hershel. Nothing seemed out of place to me, until Exelar and Hershel had a private meeting in the temple and upon returning, Exelar seemed to have questions. For whom i did not know. The moments that followed were reports given to Exelar about what had transpired while he was away from us. I had to show him the Thyatian blade i had acquired. It needed to be studied and i needed answers as to the power it holds.

As Exelar prayed and focused over the blade, he must have seen or heard something, for as he awoke from his trance he looked puzzled and a bit nervous. He must have seen the same nightmare we had about the horror from beyond coming into this world. As he returned the blade he asked for the second gem we gathered from the troglodyte shaman.

He did the same with the gem as he did with the sword, except this did not go the same way. Instantly his body stiffened, and clouded ice began to creep down his arm from his hand holding the stone. Hoping to break his connection to the stone i jumped forward and attempted to knock the stone from his grip. In doing so, a force erupted from the stone throwing me across the room and through a number of chapel pews. Gathering my wits and trying to stand up, Exelar had regained his composer and removed the stone from his hand. Whatever this gems are, they are dangerous and have extreme power. I must be vigilant.

Our next plan of action was to head to Polga to met Meiko Sama. I had arranged this meeting with the bowmen i had met on the road from Three Cedars to Lochaid. Kroenen seems more honor bound than many i have met here in the Wildlands. Even more so than some of my traveling companions. Before we gathered to leave, one of the original Watchmen Grundock, stopped us and gave a speech about how some of the villagers had pledged oaths of service to the Watchmen and that they needed officers. Commander Exelar then said he had a few of us in mind if we would pledge service to the Watchmen. Caleb without hesitation stepped forward and said he more than ready to join. Exelar then turned to me and said he wanted me to be the general of the army. My first thought was “what army? We don’t have one!” But he continued by saying that he was not experienced in training and leading a force but i was. In truth, i was a royal guard. Maybe ten men to my company. I was not a leader of troops either. But training i have done quite a lot of in my one hundred years as a knight of Brunswick. I had questions, doubts, issues that needed to be resolved before taking on this task. Is this where my lady Altua has lead me? Was this my purpose after the loss of my queen and kingdom to a tyrant? Could i truly help these people here instead of my own countrymen? We debated the past history of the Watchmen and how it failed as an organization due to infighting and lack of faith and honor. Exelar assured me that the New Watchmen would be better and more than the Watchmen of old. With that i pledged my sword and my life to Commander Exelar and his cause. I would see this through.

It was time to leave to meet with Meiko. We all boarded the airship, except for Hershel, who stayed behind to take care of something before he met up with us. He is a mystery to me, but he did save my life from that tentacled horror. Sailing through the air on a skiff is a feeling i will never grow tired of. Never before could i imagine something like this existing, but i digress. We arrived early the next morning and waited for the Bowmen to arrive. I was anxious and nervous. Had i been tricked? Was this just a trap to isolate us and finish us off? I wasn’t about to be caught off guard so i prepared my gear and readied my sword and shield.

Out of the fog they came. Mieko Sama and the Bowmen were here. Tensions were high and as we conversed, things would only get worse before they got better. Upon mention of Boris Cotton and the rescue mission, we miscommunicated some how by not understanding her intentions. Boris’s daughter being safe with Boris was of great concern to her. After that near collapse, yet again the mage Nathaniel was too eager to use his arcane power and almost caused a fight. Granted his intentions were noble and wanted to show visual of the atrocities Trask has done, Meiko was on him in an instant and by luck or divine grace, she let slip that she and trask were trained in the same combat style. Perhaps she could help me learn my enemy. As talks slowed down, she looked at me and told me, " the path you walk will lead to your death, do not try and attack trask as you do with others". This startled me and puzzled me at the same time. How has she seen me fight before? How was she watching? And was Trask that deadly of a combatant?

Trask and I will see each other face to face. True my path is set, be it death or glory, i will fight with honor. I will fight with true determination of one that fights for truth and justice. Trask will meet my blade. Altua guide me and see me through til the end. If this is my fate, i shall not run from it. My only wish is my companions finish what i have started.

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The Spire

The Spire, once laid in ruins has now been remade. A gift from the old woman in the wagon. This place still holds magic yet known, you can feel the power as you walk the empty halls. The Scarlet Spire as it once was called is now mine. As it’s secrets shall be. I’m slowly coming to understand how some of that magic works. There are something’s that I have not been able to access as of yet but soon.

I have already found a family member who was wandering lost on the surface. My cousin Nief"thel, has been looking for me and for a place to stay. I have given him a safe place to stay. His presence has been found out by the others and they are not happy. After a conversation with Exalar that did not go unwell, I was forced to vouch for him. These surface dwellers are very trusting. That trust could be their undoing. From this place my power will grow, as that power grows so will the people who come to seek shelter and their own slice of power.

My cousin, @ @ @@@@@ @ @@@@ @@@@@@ will help me unlock the power of the @@@@@@@. With the use of the @@@@ @@@@ that he will help my create. Once we have created these pieces and used them to harness the power of this Spire the center of power will shift in this region. The old woman was right if I cannot save my family, I will create a new family on the surface. this family will spread like a shadow over the land. I have already helped the human called Herchel cast aside the shackle of morality. As I begin to @@@@@@ Exalar and his thinking lends itself to my cause, he will make an excellent @@@@@@@.

If they knew @ @ @@@@@ really was they would run in @@@@. Keeping him in check until i can use a @@@@ @ on him will be key. I cannot let his eagerness to @@@@ these mortals over shadow or goal. Only time will tell how all this unfolds. They have yet to see my true power. That nut the Knight will be a problem once he see’s my true power. My only hope is that Trask can remove @ @@@@ from @ @@@@@@@@@.

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Two Meetings. A Choice.
Sorscha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No Rest For The Weary
Journal entry of Exelar Vitarri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leaving Carrion Hill. Burning Cedars.
Sorscha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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