my background for a character I am developing for an upcoming Forgotten Realms campaign set in Loudwater. Comments please. ^^
I am not from Waterdeep. I have never even lived there. Perhaps it's best to start from the beginning.
My parents were adventurers, heroes by some's reckoning. They adventured before settling down in Llorkh, it was a difficult time before the rulers of the village drove out all those who could flee. My parents were ones, who given the choice of staying or leaving, chose to leave towards Waterdeep. A city it would take me eight more years before I would see.
We left on a crisp dweomer filled morning with a group of other travelers. There was talk of a tax being imposed to prevent people from leaving, but that was the talk of parents long after I was supposed ot be in bed.
We trudged along in our caravan for two weeks, the plan was to head first north and then west, passing by a mining community of dwarves and humans and then west through patches of planes land back south along the the Western side of the river. It was the second night when we were attacked.
The raiders came at the dead of the night. They slipped through the sentries easily and the moment I knew something was amiss when I heard screaming from the neighbouring wagon. My parents fought valiantly, but we were eventually captured.
We headed north into the forest. It would be weeks before we would see the sky again. Moving along deer paths. Constantly trudging on single file. We would be thrown scraps of food. Just enough to keep us moving, but not enough to keep away the cold. My fingers would be so cold, that I was constantly trying to bite away the tears as they burned their way down my face.
My father already wounded was slow in movement. Until even the hobgoblins whips could not make him move any further. They waited until night and killed him. My mother as they feasted on his still steaming flesh helped me and several others escape into the forest. We hid and dodged the hobgoblins for four fearful nights before hunger and fear drove us back to them.
My mother was not in good shape, but eventually the thrashings on her body started to heal. We continued to walk westwards until we crossed a heavy track and waited in a corpse of trees. We were afraid of the hobgoblins as the day wore on and they became increasingly agitated. They eyed us and they eyed each other. Finally in the early glimmer of the morning we saw a black bannered caravan go past. They stopped and with baited breath we watched as men came towards the corpse of trees with blades ready. They were grim men and were there for a grim task.
The met with the hobgoblins, not for war, but for commerce and we were the commodity. Money changed hands and we went from captured to slaves. We rode in the back of covered wagons; the bread was hard, the meat stringy and the water brackish.
It was on a marshy river inlet that we were transported into a trading ship. Below we joined others who had been captured. There was a multitude of voices and languages. Some guttural curses, others of feminine wailing. We were mercilessly shoved into the cages that smelled of offal and human detritus. The storms were not kind and the ship would nightly creak and sometimes gush the stink of the sea into the holds. I would occasionally hear the wail of my mother from the holds and she and I would send each other messages. My writing barely understandeable with the shaking of my hand. It was several weeks before we made landfall.
The slave pits of Luskan are beyond description. There we were herded inspected and prodded. However, the food was warm and the water less brackish. I had not seen my mother there for a long time, each day stretching into the other. One time I was told to get up and I was escorted by a cruel looking man to a cell with other women. Many had become sick and my mother lay among them. I stumbled and clutched at her as she absent mindedly tried to straighten my matted hair and wipe the dirt from my face. Her breath was shallow and she tried to say something to me through a hoarse throat. I could not listen for she was my mother and she was my all.
Finally my sobs went to single tears and she spoke to me, of love and of strength, of prayer and of hope. I tried to understand, but I was not sure what I was hearing. She spoke like that eventually going into circles as delirium took hold and I was taken away screaming and crying back to my cell.
One torch lit night me and the rest in the cell were escorted out. They gave us rich clothing that was black with grime and scratched our bodies. We were viewed by a throng of shouting spectators. I could not see their faces, only the cold reality we were being auctioned. The sounds of numbers fell on my leaden ears. The auctionaeers voice cut through the haze into my mind. The five us, were advertised perfect for breeding or for hard work such as in the scullery. With the proper training and breaking we could become whatever the purchaser wished.
For a clink of money we were escorted away to new cages for loading onto one of the many ships. We were never picked up. The merchants defaulted on their trade and while money did change hands we were the lost cargo of what later I would know of a dead flesh trader.
We ended up in the hands of a man whose name still causes me to involuntarily to shudder. He was the one who would buy the runt of the cargo. He would teach us how to steal and steal we did. In Luskan bread or meat are not to be openly bought or traded, but stolen and bargained for - often at knife point. We stole for him and he grew fat on his commerce.
Like greeds, he too became slothful, he found the power in flesh and the lash. It grew our hearts cold and it would only a matter of time until someone overthrew him. I worked in his house, placing the food on his table until one night he got into an argument, we had grown and were aware of him, and he was dimply becoming aware of that. He was already drunk and then we held him down and took turns stabbing him until there was no more blood to spill.
Some, like me escaped. I wandered through Luskan till I joined a gang. No longer was I someone's bread thief. I was an equal and we all stole equally. We were a gang called the castoffs, from a bewildering group of races and cultures. Elves to orcs. All that binded us was our age and our need for survival.
The springs in Luskan have a pungent odor. The dead that once stayed nicely under the ice sheets and snow drifts, like gruessome sheets would be drawn off the poster bed of father time. The smells would make you not want to eat for many a day, until the carrion crows would come back for the summer and would feast on this offal. Our gang had grown. No longer were we small hands stealing in the dark, but we were working towards full criminality. With age I grew long and more dextrous. The lies easier. The ruses on the drunkards and the aged more functioning. We took any way we could and they payed the price.
We were sitting one afternoon in one of the broken houses by the docks. Occasionally the sea would shift and one less noxious odor would replace the other. We were lookign at our treasure a breadboard full of gold and treasures. Of course we all talked of our plans with that treasure, some of us wanted to save it further and see about building ourselves more powerful others looked beyond the walls at fatter pickings south.
The gang became divided, but so did the treasure. I for one did not wish to stay in Luskan, but instead wished to escape and escape I did to Waterdeep. Where they say merchants are carried in sedans because no ass could carry their weight of their riches through the cities. I and three others started out there, we stole during the summer months, sleeping wherever we could, until the autumn came and we went into burglaring houses. I would often climb in to the houses and steal from under their sleeping noses dropping the riches down to my accomplice below. It was only a matter of time before we would become caught, but they were heady days.
I am never sure what or who gave us away. The city watch had layed a trap and upon our departure of our latest acquisition of wealth we were assaulted, trapped and captured.
Six black robed magisters with six guards next to me as I stood manackled in the cage. I had fought and killed a watchman, I had stolen things not belonging to me. I had sought to cause further harm to people and was therefore considered a menace to society and would therefore be locked up in one of the many institutions meant to instill in me less wayward behaviour.
It was a year before I would feel the sky upon my face. Most of that was spent in small cages, prodded and laughed at. Occasionally clerics would come with promises of redemption in the form of conversion. I saw it for what it was, slavery from man to god. I bided my time and when I could leave I did.
The first night I broke into one of these temples and stole their food and their coffer. I continued to do so, wreathing myself in their trinkets, selling them among the fences and curio shops. I became fat off their slaves generosity. And as fat becomes I too became careless, for I was no longer content with the alms of chapter houses, but sought the trinkets of foreign gods on their altars. Someone would eventually lay a ward on such items and I was caught in such a ward. I had become fat with money.
I was tried and given the choice of exile or execution. Exile was my choice and with nothing but the clothes on my back and the few items I had stashed was I forced to leave the city. My portrature of a young woman of influence and perhaps power garnered favour among the inns I stopped and paid for with their god smitten coin.
It was easier to pretend to be a daughter of my parents of having live with them until they died in outlying raids with hobgoblins. I was there to bring the ashes of my parents - the scrapings of an inn hearthe - to Loudwater for burial. It was a second life and fit me like an ill covered trapping.
I can't believe nobody's commented on this; I was leaving it for someone who could offer something a little more constructive than "I like it. Nice background." I'll try, though:
I like this. It's really well thought-out. Your character is neither a ready-to-go adventurer nor a paragon of All That is Good and Right, which is nice. Makes her more real.
One thing I did notice is that it doesn't look like any of the other players' characters are mentioned. This is of course fine, if that's how your group plays. I know that some people prefer to have established character relationships before the game begins, though, so it's something you may want to consider. If your fellow players aren't worrying about it, go ahead and forget I said anything.
I have yet to meet the rest of the players, let alone their characters. Hence why no mention is made of any other player characters!
We have also yet to talk about the actual campaign. I just got so enthusiastic on playing Forgotten Realms again I just wrote this spur of the moment.
I find out all the particulars of the campaign this Sunday!
All I had to go on was that I needed to have ties to Loudwater. Which is why I chose the city of Llorkh as the origin city of the background. After all it's only one city over from Loudwater.
I believe I am going to be the second cousin to the Lady Moonfire of Loudwater. But I have to discuss this first with the DM and the other players.
A nice and full backstory, my only constructive criticism, which may not be valid, would be that it's a little ill fitting in length and accomplishments for a starting character.
If the campaign isn't beginning at level one, then you're fine or alternatively you and the party/DM are willing to suspend your disbelief a bit. Otherwise there's this bit of a disconnect where the character in backstory was this decently masterful thief capable of pilfering occupied homes/temples and escaping city watch dungeons is suddenly having some trouble sneaking up on a pair of kobolds.
A great story. Very intriguing. I certainly think this is one of the better backgrounds I have read in a while. Keep up the good work and I hope you enjoy your campaign
That said a few minor things I would see needing some clarification is the trade between the Hobgoblins and Slavers. Also the age of the character is unclear though not essential it helps me at least build a better picture in my mind.
From slave to prisoner was supposed to be kept non involving of the character. The character at this point is a commodity and would have nothng to say in a 5 minute transaction.
I decided that I would use hobgoblins, just because they're not orcs.
Wehn the story starts off I would say she is 8 or 9 years old. Which is why the traumas of youth are not as apparent as the formation of free will later. That would make her around 23 years old now.
As for level... That has not been decided - yet.
In addition, the locations robbed have been places of opportunity. An alms coffer at a shrine is not going to be as heavily guarded or under such heavy lock and key as the sacramental implements. There is also a specific mention to stealing gold leaf off frames, which does not demand more than a pen knife and a bit of time. They are the mundane items being stolen, but in locations that are open all day round.
The mindset is 180 degrees from that of a D&D adenturer. Where stealing is looting. Where a crypt is opportunity for adventure - not the opportunity for shelter.
The character has never escaped from prison. Simply incarcerated there. Released vs escaped.
This is good stuff. You've got a great reason to adventure, and enough written for you to have an idea of how your character would react in a given situation. I expect it will go well You've clearly paid a lot of thought to your character, and a DM could hardly ask for more.
I understand the whole lack of character input into the trade I guess I just found myself wondering a little more about the characters feelings at being a commodity and was a little lost geographically speaking as to where this happens (Im assuming somewhere near Mirabar) but then again my sense of direction is completely messed up... note to all who would follow me DON'T :P i tend to go the wrong way and be lucky enough to miss all the nasty stuff.
When you were 8 and you wandered off. Did you have many complex emotions running through your head before you were re-found?
The route was mapped on the FR map.
Gravepeak mountain > The High Forest > and then down along a river (maybe River Chionthar) up along the Sword coast to Luskan.
a kiI never really wandered off as a kid... I am a natural born hermit. I guess what I'm trying to figure is the characters psyche which as a child is a simplified thing i just tend toward trying to find out a characters mindset at each given milestone (as in great impact) in their lives. all comes down to personal taste i guess.
This is the second great background i've read from Chrysalis700. I need to subscribe to your newsletter. Now that you've had more information come your way about the campaign and other characters has it changed your backstory any? It's a DM's dream to get such great detailed backgrounds, keep up the cool concepts.
Responding to Awesemologist:
I have received some new information on the campaign and some information on the characters. We will be having our first test game this Sunday and based on that test game we will see if it turns into a campaign or not.
The character concept does not actually change. The only thing that I piolitely requested is that Jenn is a 2nd cousin of Lady Moonfire.
I created a duelist as those were the more appropriate powers and fit her fantasy of being a noble.
Wow!!! Now this is what ROLEPLAYING game means. This is my first time reading such an extensive backround (and I play dnd 3 years now). You've got talent kid. Do not waste it. Have you ever considered being a novel-writer???
I do short story writing in my free time, but most of my work is not worth being printed about.
I have two after action reports written up of the adventures so far.
I am the groups note taker so it gives me the perfect excuse to write up the story as it unfolds.
I have a nice room in Loudwater. It looks over th river from the second floor. The staircase is rickety and the windows are small, the only heat and warmth in the room comes from a small fireplace which runs low at night. The bed is cold and damp to the touch. I was never one to sleep in beds.
I lived off the money I had made form the magical objects. I saved and scrimped, but thieves would not be accepted in this city. I had come to like Aleck. He was a friend even if he did not know it. Besides, how could I be a noblewoman's daughter if I did not have any idle money to spend?
There was a knock on the door and I opened it. My heart fluttered and went still like a scared bird, for it was Aleck. I smiled at him and let him in.
He explained that the well we had previously emptied was now glowing and that the rest of our acquiantances of our last adventure was at the Inn. I picked up my things and looking around the room one last time left its confining insides.
Kurufar had explained that the well was glowing and that we should explore it further. After some waiting we walked out and started our next adventure. I felt some hesitancy as this would mean going with the ranger and passing by the location where I had killed the goblin.
The first night we encountered a shadow passing over our camp. The dragon/like monster ignored us as it winged its way north. We played around and the ranger tried out his birdlike formations.
We reached the well and walked around. We were not sure what to expect so we carefully approached the well. The well was definitely glowing.
Aeliade, a nayad in the form of a woman swamped from the well. She was grateful for our assistance in clearing up the pollution of the past event. However, the water was cold. Too cold for a natural reason. The hoarfrost around the well crunched underfoot as we stood and listened to the explanations.
A dwarf called Dun from Loudwater was responsible. Aeliade did not know where the coldness was coming from, but it was our responsiblity to right this wrong.
We walked back to Loudwater and there we talked with Lady Moonfire about a dwarf. A man we would later know as Dorak Drake or ... . Lady Moonfire had a relationship with the dwarf and that relationship soured as Drake explored more forbidden arts. He left and was seen heading to Winterhaven and not heard from since.
We ventured towards winterhaven. As we progressed the weather went from a light chill of fall to brisk cold of autumn.
Winterhaven is a trappers community. The log houses are rough hewn and the roads are muddy. We walked on the boarded promenades and wondered who should we ask further about the tower and Drake. No-one seemed to have seen the dwarf and we ventured to talk with the local laird.
In the centre of the town is a moat and bailey and inside the bailey the local laird controlled the town. He was the sheriff and tax collector of the land. He did not know much only that the dwarf had left for the tower to North West of Winterhaven in the direction of the hills.
We bought winter clothing. I had never been so heavily wintered than when I was in these clothing. Already I was feeling warm as we trudged towards. the tower.
As we approachaed the frozen fingers of winter came upon us. The wind grew and the white haze that covered the hills turned itself from a chill wind to the frozen fingers of a blizzard. We kept moving forward the visibility going to near none. We were all roped together and working ahrd in staying together.
As we moved closer to the tower the wind and snow whipped us harder. The mage found out that the blizzard was unnatural and was fey made. As we noticed that it was illusion fueled the wind became less the pinch of the wind and ice became less.
We walked further, we could see the tower now. The rocks and boulders around us creating treatcherous footing. We were attacked on such a mix of calderas and river spat rocks by a group of incarnations of ice. They were supposedly ice fey, but thry looked like the undead encased in ice. We defeated them and then reached the tower.
The tower itself was surrounded by statues and each statue was greater in size than the last. I sought to go around, braving the gauntlet, but I ended up with the taunts of others failing. I went unconcious at one point and then fell down the ridge.
Finally I admitted my own defeat and climbed up the rope like everyone else.
The tower was ice encased and the only way we could get through was with the mages hands. I tried to lock pick the lock, but I failed the first time. Finally we opened the door and there was a golem on the bottom floor. Like the statues this one was frozen, but underneath its statuelike exterior a magical will stood. The mage pushed the golem into a corner as we ran up the two flights of stairs.
There were further ice fey on the second floor. Most of whom we dispatched quite quickly. The chaos creatures sought to come up from the stoves that had turned into portals to ice realm of the fey wild. We blocked the stoves and could hear the scrunch of chaos creatures as they were crushed against the blockage.
We found the mage's artefacts of magical research on the third floor. The ranger thought it amusing to pee on the magical circle while the rest of us sought out items among the rubble of his alchemical and magical research. Only glass and trinkets. Although the mage was enthused on finding three vials with an alchemical tincture.
On the fourth and final floor we found a gem that was ice encased. Attempts at burning away the ice, did not bring about any reaction, so we created from a sturdy bench a ram and rammed away the ice from the gem. Finally the shard was freed from the egg shell of ice and we could see the careful scratchings on it.
Whatever it had been was now the yoke of winter and fearful of what might happen they argued about who should touch it. While they were arguing I touched it. For what would be the worst thing that would happen?
I would soon find out when a creature materialised from the gem, the gem itself pulsing now like a heart and our mage cast fire on the centre of the gem and the creature. We fought the creature and I was one of the last to land a damaging blow on it. Finally the creature dead we stood and looked on what would happen next.
I'll post the next one up a few days from now.
Like most events for our troubled group this one too started with an argument.
It was not about the the monster, for it was slain. It was not about the gem for it had been shattered. It was not about the winter for that was fading. It was about what to do with a golem.
While I rested and cut away burnt hair and mended broken clothes, my fellow women, the bard Ka'an and the mage Sari went about madly seeking knowledge to chain the golem to their will. Sari pored over the tomes that had survived the ransaking of the tower and sough out its name.
We left the tower, it's spiraled statues looking over the gauntlet of the road. The wind bringing with it an autumnal breeze as wound our way to Winterhave. That name and the golem itself eluded the grasp of our arcanists.
The moon was high in the cloud gilted darkness when we approached winterhaven. The deadened rustle of the wind could be seen in the glint of the tall grass and falled leafed undergrowth. While we looked on we could see the tops of heads of creatures appearing amongst the grass. They ran hither and thither and their quiet barks were picked up by the wind and thrown at us.
We approached and followed them and like snakes in the grass did they attack us on near the banks of the river. We readily fought these scaled creatures and won. A band of raiding kobolds, the kind I had seen before, they were smiply seeking to steal what they could not find.
As we stripped them of their valuables, our two arcanists sought to summon the fey by the river. We disagreed for we wanted the dryness of a hearth fire and the taste of warm food. The two with the accompanienement of the ranger staid at the river despite our enticements turned warnings and we went to Winterhaven and arrived at the Wrafton Inn.
In the morning our errant party members arrived in time of the scraping of the communal pot. It was a meaty stew which the ate and scraped the breakfast pot clean with the flat bread.
Considering the dangers of kobolds and the now near-cleared tower, we decided to talk Ernest Padraig, the Lord of Winterhaven. We went to the fortified manor and after talking with his manservant was able to gain an audience with his lordship.
During this time we had found out what had originally felt like mere days had turned out to be weeks. Nonetheless, we informed of the success at the tower and the defeat of the fey-wracked winter.
The Lord as a parting gift of money also raised to our awareness that Kurufar and his companion Falftrun who had been passing through before us had not been heard from. By this time it would have been a month and they would have come back, unless something had happened to them. The lord as a final piece of advise recommended we contact Ainad who often wintered at the inn.
Ainad was a large man, although I am tiny even compared with our human bard. Ainad,is local trapper who knew the region and its many secrets. When he was younger he and a few other had thoughts of hunting dragons and tracked an elderly dragon to the location of a dragon burial ground. While he never did dare to attack it, he knows the location and that's where he guided Kurufar and Falftrun.
Without much ado and even less farewells we tracked up north. The path that woul dhave winded us to the tower instead we held to the side of the river continuing up north until the river split to the East. We headed west deeper into the coniferous forest. Seeking out a river and this place of possible treasure and danger called Silverglade.
After a bit of false footing and treatcherous paths we reached the small lake by Silverglade. To the west of it echoed Ainad's tale of the dragon's graveyard.
As we approached the sound of excavation could be heard, the movement of ground and the grunt of men. A halfling sat on a rock near the outcropping from which we could see the clearing and the excavation. Four men worked in a pit 30-50 feet wide all the time supervised by a gnome with a terrible disposition.
Ka'an insisted on talking with the halfling and while she was distracting him, I crept along in the underbrush until I could see him correctly. The discussion was not going in Ka'an choosing and in a fit of pique blasted him with a spell. I also shot at the halfling near killing him and the rest attacked the camp.
When the fighting had ended, two of the workers dead or dying and the other two surrendered. The gnome escaped and was given chase by the ranger who we would promise to meet later.
Kurufar and Flaftrun had been kept tied up in the tent and were eager to help themselves to the food and only once their stomachs were full did they tell us of what the gnome was seeking. Strangely they themselves staid silent on their purpose of coming to this remote location.
After a careful search we discovered a lockbox and inside the lockbox a mirror. As is usual they harrangued me on my skills with the bar and the tongue and yet eagerly sought to see the treasure in the box.
On stained straw a silver mirror lay. Kurufar and Falfrun explained that this was Mirror of Nirath, from the old treasure of the Kingdom. Whose kingdom I was unsure, but obviosuly had been left for many a century. On the bottom of the mirror is an inscription in a writing none of us have seen and between two shields, lies an orb of some make and manufacture that appears to be dangerous. Kurufar and Faltrun are silent on the dangers of the mirror and I have learned not to look into such things too deeply.
Among our search a kennel was found and a great puppy, badly treated and malnourished was found. Ka'an after great debate chose adopt it. I fear that she only adopted because Aleck would grow fond of it and raise it. Ka'an is a petulant person and I fear does not have the patience of training such a creature. Perhaps Ka'an will learn when it's her hand in the dog's mouth.
We left the excavation and trekked back towards Winterhaven, on our way to our final destination - Loudwater.
We were back in Winterhaven. The mirror was in Kurufar and Fhaltrun's possession. The two magicians were shut up in Fhaltrun's modest tower, doing research on the mirror and recuperating.
On the third day the ranger, Risk, returned with a wild story about a ruined fort with four goblins and a gnome. The gnome was the illusionist slaver who excavated the mirror of the Nerathian empire, wresting it from the bosom of the ground into his own clutches. He had carefully tracked the gnome from the previous encounter at the excavation to this strange location.
The ruin contained an excavation pit in its North West part, a shack nearby and a trap door which lead down into the subterranean rooms below. Risk, only scouted out the basic layout and nothing else.
While we argued, as we have a wont to do, the merits of exploring a location only one and a half days away from Winterhaven a messenger appeared searching for us.
He took us to Fhaltrun's tower. The tower was a squat two story, cylinder with a slight conical rooftop. It may have once been a mote in less civilized times, but now served as Fhaltrun's home. The 2nd floor of the tower was devoted a to a large living room and study. The walls around it were filled with books and curious. I had never seen so many books, while everyone was positioning themselves in the semi circle of chairs, I walked over to the bookshelf and picked up a random book. The writing was in a manner that made my head hurt and the image showed an image of a grotesquely overweight creature who held a sword and scepter. It looked like a mockery of the human form, with it's rictus face, cloven feet and ram horns. Orcus - Lord of the undead was written underneath. I closed the book, placing it back and sat down next to every one else.
The two wizards were looking healthier and less emaciated than the last time I had seen. Fhaltrun was slowing regaining his healthy paunch instead of sad flow of partial stomach. They sat in steeple backed chairs, carefully filigreed with runic inscriptions and arcane symbols. Between them on a lace covered table, the mirror lay. While we sat and wondered what was happening, Kurufar asked the messenger to bring us refreshments.
With the door firmly shut, we were explained that the mirror can be used in a ritual and could be potentially be very destructive. The inscription below the mirror spoke of about covering the world in Shadow.
The ruined fort Risk had found was an outpost of the Nerath empire. It's purpose was to be a bastion against the shadow world. A lock on the gate, so to speak. A world in which Orcus rules. I had heard of Orcus before, but decided not to speak for after all it would be hard to explain where the knowledge came from.
The fort had once been protected by an order of paladins, but no more. Sir Keegan went mad and his madness, he killed his children, murdered his wife and ruined the castle around him. He lived an unnatural long life until disappearing from the memory of hillfolk.
While the upper levels had been completely destroyed, Kurufar and Fhaltran conjectured that the lower levels were probably intact. The influence of the shadow world could also spread. They beseeched us for help and who were we to deny them the offer. We asked questions and the mention of Lathander's cult was in opposition to darkness and could perhaps seek to help us with their light of divine guidance. I did carefully ask about the Royal Treasury of Nerath of which the mirror was a part of. This was the final piece of information which seemed to tip us towards going to the fort and exploring. Not the civic duty, not the appreciation of the gods, but the promise of riches.
There was a bit of insecurity on who should do what and in what way. I advocated prudence. This lead to Risk storming out in his normal state of demanding we should venture forth immediately. I divided up the tasks, placing on my best political face. The kind I saw in Waterdeep by the rich and affluent. Ka'an went to seek information in the inn, checking for stories of cults, strangers and the fort. Aleck went to the laird of Winterhaven seeking finances and knowledge of the more official kind. Sari asked the sister in the local pastoral temple for help. I on the other hand, went in search of a smith to mount the amberite heart I had and to seek out the common stocks of adventuring equipment we would need.
When we left, we had received two healing potions and a scroll of invisibility from Kurufar and Fhaltrun, an amulet of protection from the sister of Lathander, and I a necklace with the heart clasped to it.
In the wilderness, I would ride Risk in his more bestial form of a white dire bear, the necklace nearly the size of my head, occasionally hitting my face and jaw numbing it, while the chain duck into the back of neck and shoulders. I have never worn a gaudier shackle, but I felt I had to for Ka'an eyed it with great envy and I could see her desire on having it.
We passed Silverlake and came close to the fort. The walls half stood like a proudly smashed bottle among the more rounded high hills surrounding it. Inside was the dig in the North West corner of the fort and shack next to it. In the middle in the ruined keep was a double doored entry to the catacombs below. From the catacombs two goblins would exit and patrol around the fort. We timed them and found when was the best time to attack them.
Attack them we did and they fell quietly and neatly. With our scroll of invisibility did we enter the hatch and progress inside. There was a goblin guard ahead of us and while I was approaching him, did I walk across the stone slabs which buckled underneath making me fall into a pit of teeming hungry rats.
The goblin was dispatched, but I was still brushing off rats. Rats do not need to see me and I had some scratches on me. I think the heart may have clubbed one of them. We had a bit of an argument afterwards. It was quite comical as most of us were invisible, with words like this and that way it was so amusing if it wasn't that we were trying to remain quiet.
Eventually a goblin stuck it's head out from behind a curtain and asked us to stop the incessant racket. Risk chased it and killed it. We search further into the complex. By this time we had little of the invisibility left. I had mere heartbeats left when I saw two goblin guards at a table. I approached one until I was a hairsbreadth away and fired my crossbow. Risk killed the second one. Their bodies hitting the ground almost at the same time.
There was a rustling from behind the curtain and a blood shot eye viewed us from the corner of the cloth divider. We killed and moved quickly into the next room. Sari killed two, Ka'an 1 and Aleck combating one by himself and a little hep from Sari, cleaves the final goblin into two. Before we could rest a second wave of goblins was attacking us. I took out one while Risk took out the second. Several more die by our hand.
As we are taking stock of our situation a goblin appears form behind a door, has one look at us and locks it behind him. I simply pick the lock and open it up. The room with bed linen and curtain partition was empty. Only under the bed in the partitioned area do we find any treasure a lock-box full of gold and a wand. I hand the wand to Sari and I could see Ka'an mouth twist into a grim line. She shouted and pouted, and i left the two to fight over the right to the wand.
We found a secret door which lead deeper down to the second level. We argued for a while whether we should follow the goblin chieftain or explore the rest of the floor. We explored the rest of the floor instead. Most of the floor was either abandoned or rooms that was no used to store refuse. Behind one door we do find a torture room. The thing more hobgoblin than goblin attacked Alec with a white hot poker, burning onto him a poker face. His body was covered in scars and stitches and he wore a red leather apron covered in gore.
The other inhabitants in the room was three goblin crossbowmen. One of them locked himself in a cage, while the other two took a covering position behind the torture table and other torture instruments.
Risk helps Aleck with the goblin torturer and finally dies in a cloud of flies summoned by Risk. After a moment of indecision I pickup the poker and hurdle myself across the rack and the many implements arrayed on it. I slipped and fell.
The fall was not what hurt the most, it was the poker already turning dull red, slipping down between my legs and burning down through to me. It hurt as much as the second, third, fourth, and fifth time put together when I was twelve. It of course never happened. It never happened when I was twelve. It never involved being held down and watching it bleed like it was doing now.
The goblins were dead or surrendered and I was ignored. I ignored the pain and moved on. We found a goblin in a cell nearby called Splug. He offered to show us a secret door. The secret door of the goblin chieftain. Ka'an ignoring everyone else insisted on finding more treasure.
Risk takes up the captured goblins and goes to the pit where there are three goblins working hard on it. We who had so carefully avoided them. Now wished to swagger and proclaim that we were the new owners of this fort. Risk offered them a few coins and with a rare gesture of goodwill sent them running.
We turned back down into the hatch, and I tried to ignore the deep seated hatred I was experiencing.
One floor down before. So far the goblins had switched to the undead and cultists. We met the undead paladin called Sir Keegan. He had killed his children and wife and all I could wonder was the idle curiosity of how did he feel. Did undeath deadened the senses or was this the punishment of his god for familicide.
We received a statue of Bahamut, the dragon of goodness. All I knew was that the temple was often covered in gold, but that felt like a lifetime ago. These statues were rough and were supposed to be used in fighting the hunger in the dark. How, I was unsure. Perhaps the hunger in the dark had an abnormal fear of dragon curios?
While we were moving along we encountered a door which someone had helpfully written the sign closed. This had Risk confused for a long time as he turned the piece of paper expecting a different message to appear. The paper confounded him. Behind the door was a corridor which was eerily clean, as I was ahead I soon found the reason a gelatinous cube of ichor, which grabbed me and would have killed me if Alek had not taken my place. He seemed to be in his element as he slaughtered the dungeon cleaner. There were two shambling horrors, but they were quickly dispatched.
The room from which the shambling undead appeared there were four sarcophagi. Two of them had been broken and their occupants we had already given a final death. The other two we forced open in the hope of treasures. Instead we had mummy rot and a few plain pieces of plain jewellery. The kind you would find on the streets next to the cemetery district in Waterdeep after dark.
We also found in a corner a chest with the embossed chest of Bahamut. The copper was burnished until it glowed. Inside were toiletries and a gold amulet with the name Dristan Keegan and a platinum bracelet with the name Kainam Keegan. Ka'an wished to have both items and wear them as hers. I left Alek and Ka'an to biker over the items as I searched the wall.
We found something unusual a wall which I could walk through and as should be expected was ambushed by four zombies. The armory room was filled with cobwebs and a disembodied voice rising from a suit of old, rusted Armour.
"What precedes you like a herald, wars are fought over it, can be found in the deepest of chasms and highest of mountains and yet cannot be touched, while still having immense value?" Reputation was what we answered.
The voice was silent and the suit turned into a black iron scale armor, which glowed with an inner red light. Alek as can be believed was overjoyed.
We headed back to the crossroads and took the main door. When we stepped inside the stone door slid closed behind us. The statue which was the sole occupant in the room started turning and twisting his sword. Alek was with me and Sari jumped through at the last moment. I ran to its pedestal, the sword was large enough and the speed strong enough to cause me to bleed from its nearness. Alek soon followed. We both sought something to stop the statue, but we could not find anything. I climbed the statue and threw my cloak over its face to no avail. I looked on cheered Alek as he ran across to the Statue. I sought to find something to stop the statue. The only hint was the alcove on the opposite side of the room.
Meanwhile Ka'an was using the power of salt and water to break through flagstones. I am sure she was very impressed in the knowledge that salt and water would wear down even the greatest of stone barriers in several thousand years. Unfortunately for those of us on the other side of this death trap we did not have millenia, let alone days to survive.
While Alek was eagerly bashing away the statue, climbed down to its arms and ran along the sword timing myself perfectly to jump into the alcove as the sword whistled and skittled past. Sari by now was blasting the statue with her powers. I found myself between two magical barriers. There was four cherubs holding water vases in the corners. As I looked at them I was splashed with fetid water, each one started spouting water.
Alek and Sari by now were destroying the statue. I could feel its rumble as the statue's sword graveled into the wall. Meanwhile Ka'an was waiting for something to happen after using up all of their salt and water.
I fear I had too much water as it was reaching around my ankles and steadily reaching higher. I sought to break the vases and all my strength was doing was denting them, with my crowbar not destroying them. Finally I was swimming, my hand held onto the ceiling as the water reached my finger tips, the pressure built in my ears.
Then there was a sudden drop of pressure and the water started turn and churn. I was caught in the water spout. The crowbar escaped my hands as I was dragged along the walls, it became a missile that hit me squarely in the face as I crashed into one of the vases a cherub held. My vision blacked out and I remember waking up on the floor. Water drained and dry heaving on the floor. The statue was armless. It's sword shattered into tumbled obelisk.
I took a moment to gather my wits before we plunged further into the dungeon. The second thing we found were ghouls, all but one were easy to dispatch and that last ghoul kept us all at bay for a long while.
I think the worst place found in the dungeon was after the ghouls. There was a small burrow hole which we crawled through. we were met with a horrific stench. The floor was covered in the purpled, visceral matter of dead bodies. One body would merge with the splattered internal organs of another. Ka'an took to the place, haughty perfect Ka'an with the madness of a muckraker seeking her treasure. She ripped into bodies and wrestled off valuables. For the first time in my life I would have been happy to leave the bodies as they lay. There was no pleasure outside of the few coins I collected. Ka'an found a bag of holding.
While Ka'an was seeking to pile over it offal I tried to push her in the stinking pile of humanoid venous and brown pudding. Instead of her going sprawling, I slipped head first into it. I gagged and vomited covered in human detritus. Ka'an laughed and pointed and even Risk had his mouth quirked in laughter. Can I hate someone who loves my misfortune so much?
Further along the corridor ran into steps and we walked down the steps. The room terminated in a temple of some kind. The floor of the temple was a mosaic of the visage of Orcus. The four pillars glowed with a sickish green light. In the center of it there was a circular staircase which led down. There was also two rivulets of blood from altar which channeled along into staircased pit.
Risk and Sari's imp created a diversion which gave me enough time to sneak into the temple. Just long enough to surprise and kill one cultist and nearly get killed by another. We finally defeated the cultists, the night gaunts and even the priest. All that was left was walking down into the pit.
Why do I pick to be the first perhaps it's because so far being the last is the coward's way. I chose to be first to experience it first, to see it first. This was one of the thoughts that went through my head as I walked down the spiral stair case as I came closer to the floor I could see a large pulsing pool below. A dais on one side and an altar on the other side. In front was a large black portal framed by a circle drawn into the ground. Behind me an ugly statue of Orcus squat.
The Orcus priest by the altar was praying and chanting, while reading his great hymnal. Surrounding me were large skeletons of contorted giants. Their bones twisted in the gruesomeness. I was pulled by mind and body into the circle to stand before the black portal. The darkness coalesced into ropes of shadow as they sought to drag me into the maw of whatever it was across the barrier.
Instead of cowering, I instead ran to the chanting priest and made a mad grab for the book of Orcus. While we fought Risk turned into a heron and swooped low, not to peck or to fight but loosen his load. I was glad he over shot his target, but the priest was now a white puddle of mess. As he screamed at the heron/Risk, I grabbed the book and ran for the relative safety of the statue of Orcus.
The statue of Orcus I realized was meant to hold the mirror we had rescued from a pit a long time ago. I ignore that and climb the statue. Risk and I are now in a perfect position to strike at our assailants. Alek is fighting the skeletons which keep rising again, Sari is attacking a wight, which is constantly raising the skeletons. Meanwhile the priest is screaming vile invectives at the heron.
The tide of battle was quick to turn to our favor as if we had never lost it. The wight was defeated while the priest from a hundred cuts was driven into the portal. His screams were short and anguish filled. Blind, hungry gods do not care for the nature of their sacrifices. While everyone sought treasure. I carefully tore off the covers of the book and threw them into the portal.
I have decided to keep the book. I am tired of being the weak one. I am tired of being the laughed at one. I am tired of being the revived one. Perhaps the book can teach me the power to be more than who I am or will ever be.
What did we do once the cultists were dead? We were left with a susurrus emanating from the portal. The black tentacled creature was there and it was still calling to us.
We had the responsibility to create a ritual to shut out the creature from this world. This creature of hideous strength. It was not in allegiance with Orcus, but aligned. It was an embodiment of death, darkness and servility.
We were to perform a ritual of light and life in this seachal. We stripped the corpses and created three piles. The first was the items of value, an elven cloak, a ritual book, and a tined dagger. The second, was the weapons we would not use, the rags of their bodies, the profane icons of their allegiance. The third was the bodies themselves.
Ka'an broke into song, a haunting song of two tones. We anointed the head and feet of the altar with lamp oil and threw upon it first the bodies. They smelled sweet, femurs and thigh bones snapping from the heat. We theee their weapons on the altar. Each of us were to think of something to sacrifice. Sari sacrificed a sprinkling of blood. Of the rest I was unsure as I was so focused on my own sacrifice.
I sacrificed the one thing I had. I sacrificed the amber amulet. The heavy pendant I had carefully carried with me. A lucky token that so far had tried to strangle me. A heart of a forest spirit Ka'an had hungered for. It burned bright on the altar, lights springing forth as Ka'an voice twined with the fire into words of making. The fire burned bright and then flashed into whiteness as Ka'an fell to the ground.
The whispers of the portal were silent. The room was no longer filled with baited dread, now just a cavern framed with a inky pooled portal. It took us a while to rest and gather our things.
Sari was curious about the portal as was I. She touched the portal with her magic and the desire to walk through over came her. We sought to reason her. Finally it took Risk and Alek together to restrain her. She spat and struggled with all her might. I tried sought to strike her to unconsciousness. Instead with an eldritch word she struck at me.
What do you suppose is the greatest fear if placed into flesh? Abandonment? Loss? These are simply symptoms of fear. True fear was as my world crumbled around me was to see my Master Jaher Treach. Many a night I had spent hungry. Many a night I ate my fill knowing that every morsel on my lips was taken from one of my brothers or sisters. We would watch as the most wronged would sit in the high chair with the crown of thorns on their head and have to pick the one to be punished. We would hold him or her down as punishment was meted out. We would hate the crown. We would hate the person. We would turn to love the cruelty. We would turn to love the power of dominance.
Master Jaher Teach. He would carry his leather whip and dagger girdled with his broad leather belt. We would learn the fear of seeing the whip and the loosening of the belt. I saw him. I saw his face. I felt his rough hand on my face. I felt the wrack of his scars on my body. I smelled his skin. I was and will ever be afraid of Master Jaher Treach.
I was cowering in a corner. Sari was dragged struggling up the spiral staircase and I was left in the corner of my childhood with its demons. Ka'an was the one who helped me up and walked me up the spiral staircase. I had trouble speaking and the animal was nearly out of me.
We walked out of the temple and found a disused part of the upper level. The doors which lead to the statue and water hazarded room was blocked. We were far too tired to argue and instead cleared out a corner of the dungeon and slept. I woke to Ka'an shaking me. I had been screaming incohately.
We looked around the space and the only exit was the door. Risk changed into a bug and crawled under the door. Behind the rubble a few hobgoblins were. As Alek pounded away at the door, we finally forced it open. The hobgoblins had run, but had bared the next door, which we in turn took to breaking open.
As the door opened a goblin arrow flew past our heads burying in the wall behind us. The force of Hobgoblins would have assaulted us if Sari had not cast her spells. The fight itself was cold and brutal and I took on the captain. I carved a path to him and when he turned to flee I killed him. We had routed the last band of hobgoblins.
Alek took a spear from one of the hobgoblins and among the treasure was a short swords. The sharded edge was nasty. Possibly some hobgoblin thought it an attractive knife. It was a short sword to me by pure length and heft.
Our final action before we left the fallen castle and its now well dead denizens was a talk with Sir Keegan. We asked him about closing the portal, for we had simply stilled it for a while and the creeping darkness could return - or worse could step out. We asked about the items of his children and he asked them not to be shown in his sight again.
With a bag of holding full and the sun slowly beginning to set across a dusk lit forest we started our slow journey back to Winterhaven. Along the horizon we saw goblin and kobold patrols. We could not even guess the numbers, for if the adage was true we could be seeing one of a hundredth of the true forces among the hills and dells.
We talked with Sir Padraigh and as the forces of evil had been abated. The villagers, who could feel the constricting of the throat slacken and thirst rise had a party. Every drunken time the story as told by Risk grew in narration and believability. I chose to spend my night drinking it away away from all. The cold winter night cut through my party clothes in all lightness. I had felt worse.
As we left the tavern the next morning. I did wonder where Ka'an and Risk had disappeared to. Both had been drinking late into the night and we had not seen them since. We were called by Kurufar and his companion to talk about a few items. Ka'an dog in the past few weeks had grown wild and feral. It was growing into a monster of a kind. Horns and the back had lost its shag and was growing scales.
Kurufar and Faltrun did not feel to have the mental or physical reserves to take care of something that was growing rapidly in size and aggressiveness. At the moment it was playful but aggressive. Soon it would be simply aggressive. They proposed that we talk to a man in Llorkh who would know more about the dog as he is a specialist trainer.
In addition, we talked about the portal and the decision was to go to Waterdeep and find experts in how to close a portal. We still had two tasks to do before going the route of Llorkh. I was opposed to going to Llorkh, but then again I was in my heart of hearts opposed to going to Waterdeep.
We split up, Ka'an and Risk too the devil dog with them to see the Nayad. We emptied out the bag of holding and took it with us. Ka'an insisted on keeping the gold which we left with Kurufar. I asked around at the tavern and with the help of my map and his guidance we had a route planned.
As we travelled to the warlock's tower, we started to see more goblins and bolds. No longer were they simply content on lingering on the horizons. They would come close, always staying well outside of spear shot or crossbow range.
The warlock's tower had two to three tents in front of it. Camped around it we could see movement, but not who. I volunteered myself to go closer and scout out. Sari disdainfully said I was a fool and that all I would do is get killed. In return I asked for her cloak. I snuck down and among the goblins. Inching my way to within ear shot of the camp.
As I was within ear shot I had to freeze for what was padding amongst the goblins, but a warg. Shaggier than a wolf and the size of a pony. It's paws would crush a man and the jaws would be strong enough to snap the back on a horse. I froze for a moment and then inched further. I could now see the banner of the goblins. The picture of a warg and the two hobgoblin bodyguards outside the tent. The commander I could not see and I dared not lift my head for fear of being seen. He was waiting for news from the boss. The last word was the raising of the wards by the shaman and then he promptly walked back into the tent.
I already lucky to be alive, slowly snuck away and came back. I told them what I had seen the hobgoblin commander, his two bodyguards and the numerous goblins and kobolds milling around. As they were so close to the entrance we could not simply sneak through the camp. Instead we went for sneaking up the tower.
We climbed up between the statues and approached the tower. Sari on the back of Alek and me raising her higher we snagged the rappel hook and started to climb up. Sari got halfway along before she slipped and fell. If Alek had not heroically grabbed out of the air like some ballroom dancer, she would be sorely hurt. Alek climbed up first and we followed being pulled up on his big taught muscles.
We searched the tower for anything, but couldn't find anything. There was only the golem to take care of. We blinded the golem with a sheet tied with weights on. While it was blinded I jumped down onto floor. I quickly espied what we had previously missed. A door leading down.
I quick ran down the steps and found a bed, washbasin and a door which lead further. The tapestries on the wall kept the chill out and might hold further portals. Sadly all the tapestry revealed was a naked wall. I opened the second door to find a room with ever-lit candles and rows upon rows of books. If Only I knew how to read beyond the occasional smattering of liturgical memorization. By the time I was looking at the library, Sari and Alek had arrived. We discovered the trap when Alek sprung it. Each item was trapped with a flame of fire. If you were to take a book the flame would burn you with its magical properties.
Fearful of what we were doing, Alek hid in the other room while we disarmed the trap. Sari found while cleaning the bookshelves of all possible books and items one fake book which lead further into the dwarf's inner sanctum. In the sanctum was a desk and Sari carefully disabled it. Inside the desk was his greatest prize - his diary.
Sari found out the relationship between Lady Moonfire, about her warlocking abilities and the rift that formed between to magically impassioned people. I could almost cry from loss. Almost. We escaped the tower the same way we came and are now on our way to Winterhaven.
After we had defeated the evil in Shadowfell Keep, there was a party for us at Winterhaven. We spent the night enjoyable carousing and at night having drunk far more than I should I sat outside in my night shift, looking across at the mountains and thinking of my childhood. The winter never bothered me and truly I was covered in a fine powder of snow that I had to shake off before going to bed.
While we were conducting our business looking at merchandise and haggling with the minutiae of how to divide our spoils, an emissary from loudwater came to us via Lord Padraigh's steward. We who were ready to bypass Loudwater and head directly to Llorkh, for we were looking at getting Ka'an's pet dog trained and from there ahead to Waterdeep. All our plans were laid aside as we were requested by Lady Moonfire to come forthwith to Loudwater.
With the emissary in tow and some of more or less sober from a night of muted festivities for there were still dangers in the hills. We returned to Loudwater with Ka'an's dog in tow. The creature had become ever increasingly large and now we had to keep it in a cage. Not only to contain but because it was becoming increasingly feral and ferocious.
At Loudwater we were rushed immediately to the mansion. Across carefully cleaned and polished floors we were taken in a our wintry wear directly to the waiting room. There we were offered a bit of a repast and allowed to shed our winter cloaks to wash our hands and faces in a silver basin. Risk was the most dirty of all of us for all could see the grime in funny wiped smears. I was amused as there appears to be a handsome elf somewhere underneath those layers of grime.
As we finished wiping away the vestiges of the road we were allowed through the waiting room into the drawing room. Across from us large bay windows framed the place and the numerous books were carefully on display. A fire roared in the hearth and numerous candles had been placed like million lights.
Two figures waited for us. Lady Moonfire in her midnight dress with silver stars. Across her head rested a graceful elven tiara. The carefully coiffed brown and blonde hair winking in the candle light.
Across from her stood a tall and majestic elf. He wore the pensive expression of a scholar and the long white hair of a sorceror. he was dressed in browns and even through th wear of the road had been carefully cleaned from his leathers, the dust was still apparent upon his shoes. He was there to ask our help.
He was a member of the Limbian Alliance and usually more merchant than a diplomat. Still he was here after hearing of our exploits and it was heroes such as us that he was looking for he politely inquired if our company had a name and truth be told we said we had none.
He polished over the matter, but the silent question still lingered as he explained who he was and what this was about. The alliance was between 3-4 towns. That of Loudwater, Winterhaven and Daggerford as well as the torps and smaller villages of the outlying areas. Trade was being disrupted and there were raids in the South and East of this region. They are not used to this kind of activity and need the help of brave adventurers such as ourselves to assist in this great quest.
Around Llorkh the woodcutting had halted and up in the North to Winterhaven the mining had come to a standstill. They sought to ask for our help and asked what did we wish in questions and in return. Like a gaggle of geese we bickered and argued and tried to push in questions. Finally, I had enough and said that we would with his leave come back for we were tired on the road and we would need some time to formulate a proper response.
He bid us farewell for the moment and we would adjourn to talk to him later on in the early evening. Perhaps for dinner? Lady Moonfire's sharp look said perhaps after then. We walked out of the meeting and headed to more pressing needs. We went shopping.
In the Green Tankard Inn we drank and Alek was busy into his third beer by the time all of us were there. Newly armoured and equipped we set out on parchment and quill our list of demands. Among the many decisions was our group's name - the Guardians of Greyvale
We came back to the mansion and were ushered into the same room which we met them previously. There was spiced elven wine and we tasted ours our of crystal goblets handed to us. I always envied Lady Moonfire for she had a finesse to her that in all my coarseness could never seek to emulate.
We gave them our demands of 5 horses, Writ of Warrant of Charter, and a request that afterwards we would have access and status for some and cold glint of coin in the hands of others. Coin could buy you the right titles and that access so I sought the glint of gold. We received our horses and 1000 gold pieces up front.
There was a promise of another 1500 once the quest was finished. We were also handed a Writ of Warrant of Charter. The Writ was important as that gave us wide rights of access and legality in the region. Something which was important if we ever came across the Law or needed to levy support from the populace.
We asked further probing questions, but simply confirmed what we knew. Small groups of people were disappearing and groups of goblins and kobolds were seen threading through the lands. They appeared to be scouts, perhaps of a larger force? This would be something we would know soon. I was already thinking of the conversation I had overheard in the goblin camp between the hobgoblin chieftain and his associates. There was a greater power at play and we would need to know who and what this power was.
Upon getting to the stables and looking at our gear for there was certainly a lot of it, we looked at a sledge for the cage with Ka'an's dog and for our supplies. Soon we discovered that this would be impossible with horses and reluctantly gave them up instead we took two sledges. One with the supplies for the dog and the other with two weeks of supplies for ourselves.
We left Loudwater behind us and trudged towards the east along the river. The old trade route was still visible here and there. We slipped and struggled on the day clear but hard work. Often sweat would run down my back like a cold knife as we progressed along. The river was no longer covered by a simple icy crust but by a strong icebound surface. Water was becoming hard to find for we had to take picks and excavate through the ice to reach the cold dark of the river. We also confirmed the goblin scouting teams as we saw them across the harsh moorland.
A bend in the river and past a small corpse of trees on the second day we came across a human camp. We could actually see the smoke and smell them before we could see the sight of them. Rough tents had been erected and lean-tos. As we approached more closely we could see them. The hardness in their faces, the hunger pinching. The absent minded scratching of wounds that were it not for the cold would be festering. I had seen this all before. I saw their hunger at us. I saw madness in the eyes of the older and the agedness of the young.
Before we could approach any closer we were stopped by two guards. They swagged and looked at us with hard eyes. They were eyeing us not from hunger, but from need. The clothes on our backs and the food in our packs. They hungered for it.
We were led through the camp to the largest of tents. Outside around a cooking pot people with nasty knives were carving up something to place in the stew. The men were loud, uncouth and well-fed. The flesh in their faces was red from exertions. The leader was a good head higher than the rest. He had a black beard and mustache and long flowing black hair that flowed behind his bald pate. The furs he wore were expensive and well mended. The sword at his belt and the heft of his build was more warlord than some soft burgemeister.
Ka'an approached and sought to use the honey'd words of a courtier to a pack of brutes. They looked at her and said her to hold her girly tongue in her mouth. Ka'an a woman who would never accept such rudeness sought to fight back with words and such. We asked some probative questions, but all they saw was the store of our items and the flesh of our bodies.
I saw the tattoos. I saw the welts. This was no group of ragged hobgoblins they were hardened not by regiments but strict punishments in hard gaols. They would not understand empty threats, appeals to civilized morality or vaunted intellectualism. For all they saw was the store of our items and the flesh of our bodies. We were soft and weak.
As the conversation devolved we became like a gaggle of silly geese. Bickering and fighting. Barsch was a bully, sneering and taunting us. Finally he said we needed to pay a tribute for us to be walking on his lands. That could be either Ka'an's fine pet or 250gp. Ka'an quickly jumped onto the offer of money for our lives. Meanwhile, the taunts of Barsch were having their effect on Risk. He was readying to attack.
The only news we received was this band of hundreds was Llorkh. There was no more Llorkh. Orcs had come down and raided the city. What more I did not find out for I had to hold Risk from physically attacking Barsch. Finally I could not take the petty bickering anymore and kicked Risk making him fall over. I said "that's enough!" and I was ignored. Sari paid one of the henchmen of Barsch. I saw his eyes, but I held my tongue. It was taking all I could to control Risk from murder and killing us all.
We were escorted from the camp as they allowed us to pass through their ranks. I saw the children from flaps of tents. I saw the eyes of men and women. All my companions saw was the loss of money and of pride. We were being followed a ruddy man with matted fur across his coat. His body covered in a leather jerkin. The guards left us at this point and they started to argue.
I raised my voice. I have never raised my voice to this group. I shouted at them for being children. For being irresponsible little children. For madness of their hollering. Of their behavior as rabble. There was no unity with them only petty squabbling. Ka'an took offense to this for I had too berated her oratory skills.
She said what was there I could do and I punched her. This was no lovely slap, between friends, this was a punch I had been trained to do. It was strong enough to break her nose.
That's when the mayhem started. Alek had to restrain Ka'an and I, and while I was readying for another. Risk slapped me. The slap echoed across the moors and I saw the guards who were looking on at us laugh.
I stormed off to the cries of Ka'an. I walked for a while and sat down behind a hill, my head swimming. Barsch was there in my mind taunting me. He was an odious man, but what made him worse was the biting torrent of voice on how vulnerable we were. How childish we were. All our weapons were simply sticks and the dragons we were vanquishing but shadows. I was playing with shadows.
The situation in the camp was dire. The people were starving. Their leader a bully, and I? What was I to do? I who had once been born in Llorkh, to now know that the people who I may have once known were dead. The people around me would not even recognize my name and what was worse the man leading them was like my Master Jaher Treach. What was I to do. This was the question which issued from my lips after patient waiting from Sari "What do we do?"
She misunderstood the question for she said I must apologize to Ka'an and the rest for making a scene. She looked at me strangely and we approached. Ka'an and I squared off against each other and Risk as the unhappy mediator was the first to apologize. Ka'an refused to apologize and I refused as well.
While I had been away they introduced me to Dogfit, a man with brown stained teeth and a wolfish complexion. He told us in brief undertones while being watched by our guards about the camp. It had only been here for two days. He was the man who looked at our dog and said it was a rare breed of draconic hound. A chimera of dog and dragon. Ka'an was overjoyed and I less so.
We moved away from the camp and set up our own a while away from theirs. Risk as as a dog overheard an argument on whether they should take us and our things. Our conversation on the other hand, would revolve around the refugees and what we should do. We talked about assaulting the camp and driving out Barsch. I was to ask what would be do after that and they all looked away. This was less about the people and more about the money for that too came up in the conversation. As dusk turned to night, we were left at the camp fire. Risk went on his nightly jaunt and I was left to mind the fire and stare in the crackle of the logs and twigs.
I would later find out that Risk sought to assassinate Barsch, or at least cause mischief. He squirted oil across the braze in the tent of Barsch and kicking it over, then fleeing as a dog back out of the camp.
It's on the second day when we come up with a decision on what to do. We decide to challenge Barsch openly for the leadership of the camp. We make Alek as gleaming as a champion can. There we marched in full battledress demanding to see Barsch. Ka'an spoke eloquently about the demands and promises. Each telling causing Risk to become more self assertive until we were promising the greatness of a city. All Barsch could do was demand some shred of proof. Something of actions instead of words. We had become a gaggle of geese again.
I stood to the side of this panoply. One one side was our forces small and becoming broken. On the other was Barsch and his cohort which had become ever increasingly resolute as the wilder and more agitated Risk and Ka'an sought to make it. The people were simply onlookers on this piece of street theater.
I, who had been born in Llorkh looked at this display. Our wave had broken against Barsch and now we were receding. I took of my cloak and let it fall.
I, who had been raised in Llorkh saw the resolution wane in my companions. I Took of my hat and gloves and unbuckled my sword belt.
I, who had felt the love of my parents, saw that not among the faces of the people. I took off my quilted cambeson and boots.
I, stood in only my shift and felt the final puff of heat from my body leave me. I took my sword. Only I was left in the circle for my comrades were draining away. I held my sword horizontally in front of Barsch and let it drop. "Pick it up." I said in a quiet voice.
Barsch looks at me with his sneer clearly on his face. He spins around and leaves my back to him and the smack of his tent flaps. Now I am not faced with my companions but his cohort. They look at me challengingly as I lower myself to my knees.
I have felt cold before. I was no longer here, but in Luskan. I did not see Barsch, but the suffering of others. I went through the hundreds of permutations there as my body slowly started to go cold. I held my shivering even if I could barely breathe. I saw that the only way to save my people was to rid them of Barsch, many would die in the long trek to Loudwater. They would spit my name, but they would live. I would prefer that to a people dead on this snowed knoll. My last vestiges of true memories would then die with them.
I picked up the sword. It was a good sword, the balance was right and I took my step toward his cohort. I was not seeing them. I saw my path and I saw it lead directly through Barsch's tent. They raised their arms. I took another step "I am not afraid of you."
Before they could lunge my arm was being held by a thick gauntleted fist. The metal squeezing into my wrist. I tried to move and I couldn't. I tried to struggle against and they held me. I could see Alek's face as he struggled me to the ground. I was being held down by Risk, Alek and Ka'an. I tore at them and they tore at me. My under shift ripped away with their mad scramble for dominance. Underneath they could see the map of my shame. The scars, the welts from the shackles of only six months past. Their rough hands over my skin. I saw not pity, just determination. My vision swam. I screamed.
It was a muffled scream, the sound. I heard myself choking, like I was being strangled. I heard the sound of my body beating against the ground. It went on for a very long time. In the end there were just screams. At first they were screams of pain but finally they changed and they were like the screams of a newborn baby. There was no grief in them. They were automatic. They went on and on. Each scream was exactly the same, like a machine was making them.
They held me like this until there were no more screams forthcoming. I struggled and rocked, but I could not lodge their weight off my chest. This is how they did bind me and carry me back to the camp. They wrapped me in a blanket and left me next to the dog. There was talk on whether to place me in the cage or not. But I was left to be next to the dog.
I tried to run away, but they brought me back easily. They talked to me as a child, the treated me like an animal. Risk would touch me and I would whimper. Alek's presence would cause me to scramble back as far away from him. The animal was truly out and I had become as savage as the dragon dog. I would rock myself to sleep with childish verses to only wake up screaming.
It was a very sullen time back to Loudwater. I did not speak to them and they did not speak to me. I had not been allowed any weapons. It was only at the town gates did they loosen my bonds. They whispered about possession and wondered if that was truly the truth. The child-Jenn of Llorkh had died on the snowy field outside Barsch's tent.
There's so much detail here! Are these post-adventure write-ups from a home game or something like PbP? Great read.
Note to self: subscribe to this thread.
These are all updates from a home game. We are on summer break tho...
Here are two pieces I have written:
The trouble with Jenn, part I & II
Jenn had been taken to see Brother Griffon nealry immediately. He is someone Jenn knows and trusts. A giant of a man with a shaved head and strong hands. Though as a follower of Sylvanus his inner gentleness and sharpwittedness belies his physical presence.
Aleck has been with her the entire time and now is sitting at the back Brother Griffin's chapel room. He has been quiet and there is a feeling of personal anguish coming from him. A sense of shame perhaps. Jenn and Brother Griffin sit on rough wooden chairs at the front. She tries not to look at the altar and the various sacraments on it.
There is that pregnant silence in the air, for She's really scared on what to say.
She twists and knots the hem of her skirt. Her voice is small like that of a child.
"I was born in Llorkh. It's where my parents come from. We left Llorkh
as it was becoming ever increasingly barren. Now Llorkh is destroyed and
the memories of that place are destroyed with it."
"When I saw the faces of the people. All I could see was the faces of my
childhood. It was like the faces of all those who I had seen before
being placed in front of me. Of the many people who had died of people I
had loved. I saw Barsch as the man from my childhood."
"I thought that perhaps by us confronting Barsch I could finally stand
up. Instead I saw the hopelessness of it all. The dead were there
staring at me. The near dead. All those who I had once known were
staring back at me. Silent."
"So, I did the only thing I knew. I stripped down from warmth to the
cold of the dead and offered for Barsch to kill. To kill me. I lay on
the ground and looked at his tent as he laughed and walked away from
"The house of my childhood had a staircase and we would have to climb
the staircase to his room. It's a horrid place that room. My sisters and
I would sometimes gather at the banister and listen. We would listen for
the sounds of violence."
"I saw the banister on that cold ground. I saw my path. I picked up my
sword and walked towards the tent. I wished to no longer be afraid and I
remember saying as much. Instead I was brought to the ground. I saw my
friends faces and I saw his face. I was violated. And I could do nothing
but scream and like so many time previously no-one stopped it."
"I'm weak and useless. I'm not good for anything. You should have let me
die as I should have on that field that day."
She bites back tears.
"The first time I saw him since I had left was down in the portal room.
A shadow separated from the portal and moved along to me. It touched me.
I saw his face, not as the phantom of Saris magic, but in full. He
promised to come back to me, to finish what he enjoyed. Ka'an came down
since I had not come up and walked me away. The shadow melted before she
could see the apparation."
"The shadow was not foreign, it was something I felt had always been
living in me. It had grown from every woe. It fed me and nurtured me
when no-one else would."
"I try to be strong, but why am I so weak? The fates have deemed as the
dust to be ground under its heel and perhaps as dust I should have
become. Why won't it let me die as the worthless discarded thing I am?"
* * * *
There is a texture to cold. There is a way in which it whistles through the walls and twines around making the damp more firmly colder and the heat more thin.
Brother Griffin had given me some things to think about. He had given me advise. He refused to give me commands on how I should shape my life. In some ways I wish he had. He let me cry and knew that only a levee had broken and not the whole dam. Perhaps he knew me much better than I suspected he did. His suggestion was to do a ritual of atonement to burn something of the self and of the other. no rules were stated, simply suggestions. Perhaps a lock of hair to show the twistedness of my life?
I was in my lonely room. The windows were open to let in the cold. The hearth had at one point sputtered before dying. This was not some tame house damp, but the brunt of winter, clawing away across my body with it's icy fingers and numbing tongue.
I had stripped down to my undershirt. Across from me where the items of who I was. On my left was the sword I had threatened Barsh with. On my right was my lock picking set a mark of merit in Luskan. In front were some of the last of the first coins I had stolen in Waterdeep. The bag that supposedly held the ashes of my parents rested next to it, picked from the hearth of an unnamed tavern.
I picked up the rough clay bowl with the candle. Every single gust threatened to extinguish the fragile flame. I grasped some ash and let it fizzle to the fire. I teased back a leather cover of my wallet to reveal various vials and a reedy tail of my hair, carefully cut and braided. I slowly burned it in the fire, the smell of its acridity pushed away the cold.
"From parents to child, from phantasms to being." I pulled out from among the vials one which had a blackened label, it simply said Dark Toxin. I unstoppered the vial and a pungent odor of mushrooms long since past into rottenness permeated the cold atmosphere. It was my last parting gift of a past life now present in mind.
I swirled it in the vial and then brought it to my lips, drawing it down across the lips to spread across my tongue. The inky smokiness of the taste burned its way down, until it hit my stomach. Spreading a great warmth across me as I tried to hold it back in. I coughed and blood dribbled from my mouth.
"From light to dark, from life to death." I tried to hold my head up, suddenly very dizzy as I concentrated all my might on the candle blowing it out before my leaden body gave way. I struggled on the ground as my lungs and heart struggled with the bindings. Everything went slow.
There I stood on the second floor, I rested my head between the banisters of the mezzanine listening to my parents as they argued. There were others with them and it was about leaving Llorkh. They spoke about the Zhents and their emissary. They spoke about the brute called Barsh and about how his brutishness needed to be countered by righteousness.
I was pulled away to the forest. We hid from hobgoblins. They sought to entice us out by wearing the clothes of those they slaughtered. The threatened the mothers of some and after arguing we approached sheepishly back to their fold.
The first night in the closet of that accursed house in Luskan, I had burned Master Jaher Treach's dinner. He had broken my hand with a cowling. I was weeping quietly in that darkened closet and I heard a sound. It hissed and whispered in through the door.
"Hello Jenn." The thing looked back at me from my room, not in Luskan but here in Loudwater. It pulled one of my chairs across to the center of the floor, patted it off self-consciously of the light patter of snow and sat down. "It has been some time."
It looked down on me it's three fingered hands clasping and unclasping. Where a nose would have been there was only a slit. It's eyes were pearly white, it's skin carefully covered in a web of alabaster and smoke. The rest of its body was covered in the tatters of what could only be sheeted shadow.
"What no greeting to an old friend. Such rudeness in you." He cocked his head so his face was parallel with mine. "But I suppose that's to be expected. Although it would be flattering that I who made you would at least receive a complement at least once."
The creature picked out of his shadows a plum. "You know I love plums. They have this interesting texture of blue and with careful enough polishing they turn black. Personally, it's more about the taste wouldn't you agree?"
Between morsels as he bit his way through the plum, he spoke "Conversationally speaking I am still at a loss of why you have called me here. I mean after all you are in a bit of a hard place I have to admit, but that's because of you. I mean it too, every single lie you have told has been about bricking up your life. Why are you limiting yourself in such a way? I thought you liked having your bones mended and the games we played in the closet."
He sighs and lets the stone of the fruit drop to the ground, lickign his fingers clean. "Would the Jenn who was raised in idle comfort of Waterdeep, seen the eyes of power, would that waif of a girl stripped down to her undershirt and challenged that warlord? Would you have? Truly?"
His milky eyes looked directly into mine "Let's stop this childish wallowing in misery. Get up."
I could not feel my body, my fingers had long since turned numb, even my breath was no longer moving in my body. The creature carefully stood up carefully flicking a piece of yellow plum from his blackness and walked over to me.
He put his face next to mine, I could smell the plum and something like milk on his breath. "Get up. Jenn, I am going to tell you what you should know by now. You are dying. The poison is working its way through the heart. You choose to die here and now and you will be dead. You will have failed me, but more importantly you will have failed yourself. Now get up."
I looked at him and my world changed. Every single thing I had done to this point had been forced, it was all inevitable. I had simply followed the need for survival, even the lies were a part of survival. The choice was that of a ignominious but virtuous death or of embracing my darker side and that of villainous but impetuous life.
I who had survived many choices of horror would be crushed by my own devising. Such a quiet death. It would be a calm death. I could see my parents waiting for me. I could see the friends who had died on the wayside. They were all waiting for me at the end of the light. My lies would cover me in my shroud and I would be truly free to be what I wished myself to be.
I turned away into the darkness. I turned away from my parents from my friends. I clawed at myself grasping for control of the bundle of blood and bone that I was so quick to dispatch with. I screamed and bounded over, coughing and sputtering blood and mucus from my mouth. Every inch of my body burning and screaming as I took control of every sinew and fiber.
I knew what I needed to do. I now knew that I could no longer deny who I am. I would grow to be powerful. I would grow to be terrible.
I still dreamed of the creature that was in my room during the ritual. His presence was covers my face like an oily shroud when I sleep. I dream for his touch and instead all I can feel is the rough warm grasp of a man. I look up and see Barsch. Instead of being hearty and healthy he is crippled. His face contorted with pain and his eyes ablaze with hate. The oily wrappings around me give me strength as I struggle with him.
I snap back to this reality, the food in front of me cold, my beer flat, the Green Tankard Inn appearing less cheerful than before. The rest of the group arrayed around me.
There is the large Alek, his red hair winking in competition with his burnished plate. So quick was he to paint on its looted surface the emblem of Loudwater. He had become such a guardsman. He was looking at me if all is right. He his hand touched mine and I looked away to the other two.
There is haughty Ka'an, our minstrel and fickle as the wind at times. She is such a word sayer often confounding my mind with words I can barely comprehend. Something flashed across her face and I withdrew my hand further to hide behind under the table.
Sari quirked an eyebrow and went back to her book. She had in the past week focused on the lore of old. To find out more about our precarious position. I had once stared into her book and had tried to assist her. But she had grown impatient with my lack of the letters and I stopped from angering her.
"This is important! What are we to about Risk? He keeps running away and now he's supposedly looking after his mother and yet has been gone away for weeks." Ka'an stopped to sip her mead.
"Well, we should really focus on Barsch and the things he can do to us, to Loudwater. We have strong reasons to stay together." Sari said.
This had been going on since Risk had left. Alek was very busy with the city guard, and I had withdrawn into myself. They looked at me and could see me as weakness. We were splintering. I smiled and looked at the rest and pulled my hand back onto the table.
I was about to say something to break the deadlock between Ka'an and Sari. Alek had all given up as they had bickered like this since we came back. There was a commotion outside there was the sounds of shouts and a scream. We looked at each other and the bickering was put away as we ran towards the door. Perhaps Barsch was attacking?
Outside we see the snow covered ground. The few roaming between houses and between the wall. The wall itself a hole had been made and there were workers scrambling from it. The foreman was shouting at them as they cowered carefully away from the hole. We walked over and asked what was going on.
The man was a large grizzled man with unkempt hair and a bushy winter beard. He looked at us and said that there were monsters in the wall. Alek nodded once and ran in search of the city guard in case if there was need of support.
We looked down in the hole and see that the excavation had broken through the supports of shale rock that make up the foundations of the wall into some kind of cavity. Something was moving in there and chittering insect-like. There was a moment and we see the mandibles and the segmented body. They were dog sized, but looked every inch more dangerous.
Sari went to look for Alek who appeared shortly with a troop of city guard. They refused to go down, so it was only the three of us to go down this hole. Alek went first through the cavity with shield first and sword readied and as for I, I came behind him. The insects fought and we fought them. The largest was twice our height and had a loud screeching voice. Sari created a cage and pit for as we fought off the rest. Finally the larger creature, what I would learn later was a crufix queen was killed. The rest of her entourage by this point dispatched.
The room we were left in was quite large. The ceiling covered in groping roots and some of the slabs of its roof fallen or gripped in greenish tendrils. What we had was two exits, an entryway by what I can only assume to be insectmade and a door with a flame symbol on it. The flame symbol glowed with pale light.
"Mystra" was the word Ka'an used, the light of the flame pulsing with that name and the stars around it winking into existence. I looked at her and nod and head towards the insect entryway. When I looked back I can see Ka'an and Sari looking at the door. Ka'an singing in an otherworldly voice. The mention of Mystra and her deeds weaving through my understanding. I crawled through the worm-tunnel and tried not to think of the ichor I occasionally touched was from. The tunnel opened up next to a corpse of trees and bushes. I could see the wall behind me and the vastness of the wilds beyond before me. I took a white piece of cloth and wrapped it on the tree. Perhaps we would find a time to come back this way. A secret entryway might come in handy. Although the thought that Barsch could also use the same entryway brought me only dread.
When I have come back Ka'an has finished singing to the door, the trails of light from her mouth lazily gliding across the door. Now there was not only a flame and stars but numbers as well, drifting between magic and reality. I looked on as lore learning and academic knowledge became to the fore. They readily solved the puzzle, the door gliding open as if the hinges had been oiled but yesterday.
We passed like a wind in the doorway through what felt to be the veils of perception. We stood now in another with a similar pattern of stars on the floor and instead of a symbol there is an actually statue of a flame in the middle. Alek was nowhere to be seen and the doors behind us firmly closed.
We look around the room before Ka'an touches statue. The rock lights up with an inner light and we shifted. We are between worlds, I can see the rest of us weaved around with white tracery, while I in lacy blackness. A voice, a woman's voice asked us "Are you here for personal gain?"
It was a complex question for I was here because I had to be. Not because I was seeking riches - I was here because Alek was. I thought it a bit more and said "Yes?"
There was a pause and asked again "Is your answer truthful?"
I bit my lip and said "I do not know. Yes I suppose."
We were let go from the shift of worlds. Later I whether two companions had the same question posed to them. We were back in the room and the glow from the flame dimmed, but did not extinguish. In the half haze we could now see doorways to the right and left. They may have been obscured by magic or then we are simply in another place.
The room to the left was simply caved in. What may have been buried underneath is now covered with the layers of earth and roots.
The right hand one was by far the more interesting of the two a vast repository of things saved were now covered in moss and slime. From among the pile a rusted corner of something would peak. I had bidden Ka'an and Sari to wait for if this was like the previous death trap then it would be best not for all to be captured at the same time.
As I was poking what might have once been a bolt of cloth, now the mulch for highly conical white mushrooms a shadow dropped from the ceiling. It's bony body pressing its way into me. A fetid odor of death and decay coming off of it. I struggled with it, fighting it until the grip tightened and my lungs collapsed as my ribs broke under its power.
Ka'an was the first one I saw as I awoke. The creature like some hideous headless half cloaked duelist lay over Sari. It had nearly killed her and it took Ka'an and I both to shift it from its deadly embrace.
We used one of our healing potions and Sari slowly awoke. Her eyes blackened and sunken and we both looked at each other and laughed in that careful laugh of someone who had their body crushed and ribs broken.
Among the junk we found one book which had survived and a cloak of fine elven quality. The book was clasped and Ka'an and Sari looked at the lock and were confounded by it. I offered for Sari to open the book if she would teach me letters. Sari for a while thought I meant reading another language and then realized that I really couldn't read or write. It was a source of shame. I can understand a simple list on butcher's paper, but a book such as this was a mystery to me.
It was a diary of one of the last mages of this safe-house of Mystra. He wrote how a Zhent thief from Llorkh had stolen the smaller flame, the key to the statue. The unknown writer called it the "Key of Flame".
It took us a while to figure out how to open the door and we walked through. We were back in the room and Alek stood there. We found out to him we had been gone mere moments, not the hours it felt to us.
We walked out into the wan sunlight. We should be blessed with the darkness instead the afternoon sun still shone. We walked the brief journey back to the Green Tavern Inn to talk of options. We had the choice of dropping the room and shoring the wall or remaining a weakness in the wall for the sake of the power in the room.
Of course such an adventure would not go unheralded and we were called into speak with Lady Moonfire. As we told that it was a safe-house of Mystra, such a find would not be and could not be locked away. We would have to keep the safe-house open - wall be damned.
Great read as always. Take it the campaign has started up again? Keep up with the excellent writing.
Yes the campaign as started up again.
I still have one more adventure to write up and... we are having our next adventure on Sunday 23rd of October.
We were being asked about the safe house of Mystra. After several bit of discussion Lady Moonfire made the decision to keep the Safe-house open.
Lady Moonfire's manor was an old dwarven house. Perhaps one of the oldest buildings in Loudwater. It had withstood fire, the elements, the floods of the region, the occasional orcish incursion, the latest challenge was Ka'an who was absent-mindedly picking at the wallpaper.
She asked us to remove ourselves into the neighbouring room where we were invited to eat and refresh ourselves. I watched through an open door as the Wizard Kurufar, Brother Gryffon, Rivermaster Sarro and Captain Haraleaf of the city guard tromped into the room.
I looked on the rest of my group,sucking on a piece of meat. I carefully leaned my shadow towards the door, penetrating the wood, avoiding several ancient sigils of warding, slipping away from my body to curl around the darkness behind candle light as it listened in on their conversation. No-one had probably seen it. A strange thing that was both a part of me and it's own entity.
The refugee problem of Llorkh was the primary concern. Rumours were abounding that foreign rangers were seen in the forest and that normally safe winter paths were becoming treacherous.
There was talk that it was possible that Risk had been killed at the behest of Barsch. The focus of the conversation shifted and moved back to the defense of Loudwater.
After a while of waiting, we were brought back into the room. Around Lady Moonfire were her entourage of advisors. She told us of her suspicions that Risk had been killed by Barsch. The hut in which he had lived and his mother had been burned down.
She showed us a regional map of the area and asked us for input on the defense of Loudwater. Ka'an talked about the thieves and problem of the refugees. It was the problem of the leader Barsch and that the refugees are hungry but now weakened.
The weak ones will have certainly died by now is what I thought. A people with no allegiance than to a sole leader made them a dangerous opponent. Those were the thoughts that came through my mind.
We reached a consensus. We would make sure that Mystra's safe house was saved, we would go to Llorkh for further information. Leaving the council of Lady Moonfire to the defense of the city.
The meeting then heaved and collapsed as each thought what was more important to the defense and left them to the divisions of defense and resources.
It was a cold and wet day. The back of winter had broken and instead of snow there was the light patter of rain. We bought equipment and food for out trip to Llorkh. The journey was slow but steady. Towards the end of the day we were always wet from the hips down. Our clothes and shoes always fighting with the creeping cold and wet. We stopped a days travel from where Barsch's camp was.
Sneaking closer. We saw of the camp only a few ragged bits of cloth left behind and some lone grave markers. This meant they were moving. Not wanting to meet our most dangerous of foes we sped up towards Llorkh.
On the day before we arrived to Llorkh we saw silhouettes on the southern mountains. They looked like drakes or dragon-like creatures. We reach the fork in the river and headed up stream. Soon we were climbing a steady incline heading to the foothills of the Eastern Mountains. On a hill looking over a pass we see the ruins of Llorkh castle and a group of orcs moving around the base of the castle.
I volunteered to see Llorkh. It had been a long time since I was back and I wished to be there as soon as possible. There was a corpse of bushes and stunted trees near Llorkh. One looked liked an ent with its branches reaching down towards the bush. The bush itself was coated in sticky snow and looked like a sheep. I would meet them the next day here.
I moved slowly closer, missed an orcish patrol which were more interested in their feet than the surroundings. We saw elves, dwarves and humans clearing out buildings. Doing repair work under the careful watch of an orc guard. As I got closer people were moving around more.
The demihumans staying in their enclaves but I also saw woman orcs and their children in tow. This was no raiding party. This was a tribe and they were living here. I listened in on conversations and let my shadow slip by and listen to others. I had always been very good at listening at key holes.
The orcs had taken over the city and there was a truce going on between the orcs and the demihumans. They banded together for security and there were always fears of the people of Barsch most whom they had thrown out of the city.
One of the best repaired houses worked as a makeshift tavern and that's where I headed next. Idle conversation doesn't give me the answers of several properly directed questions would. It would not tell me the power of the orcs or the power of Barsch over this town. I waited until the darkness reached me and the tavern became busier.
I slowly entered the tavern and talked to the barkeep. I told him I had been a part of a caravan which had been attacked and I was the only survivor. I drank their ale and asked questions which did not get me any proper answers.
In the morning I snuck out and went to the vulgar oak and sheepish shrub. We walked through the village skirting patrols and packs of orcs. Finally we reached the gate of the ruined castle and demanded to talk with the Big Boss.
After Ka'an talked with the guard orc for a while we were led to what had once been the stables. There was heat, food, drink and the other markings and furnishings of power.
We met the largest orc I have ever seen, he was huge. Next to him was an orc covered in fetishes and another wearing robes. The spiritual head, the intellectual mind as well as the chieftain now ruled this city. They were Cloud Tribe and they were Llorkh now. We entreated them with offers to take back the people of Barsch. We also said we were members of the Loudwater Tribe and that we were strong. We sought to cajole an answer of agreement.
Instead they said they would think about it and asked us to stay at the inn. We went to the tavern and I was called a liar by the bartender. I did not want to admit it, but I was telling the truth. The only lie was that the caravan was not heading towards Llorkh, but away from it.
The next morning we were summoned in front of the chieftain of the orcs. The women I could hear in the other room until a guard shouted at them and they became quiet. The wizard was the best talker, but even with him common was halting.
We talked to and fro. They agreed on a pact of not fighting the Loudwater Tribe, but truth be told we knew that both knew that we were too far away for this to be a true agreement. We were told that Barsch and his followers were allowed to leave the city and that if they were to return it would be on pain of death. Ka'an wove her silken words and the orcs agreed to take the tribe in under certain conditions. What those conditions were I was unsure.
We left the meeting perhaps with more than before, but the problem of language considerably hampering any efforts or inroads we could make.
One of the missions we had was finding the house of Dogfit. We walked around after the meeting and asking from people they told us to simply follow the hows of the dogs. We come across a building surrounded by a tall wall and a sturdy door. A quick look over the wall showed that the dogs had broken out a warg was among them.
After talking for a while Sari uses her sleep spell. Three of the dogs, lay down and fell asleep. We were left with another three dogs and the warg. We killed two dogs chasing them around the house. Sari killed the last dog with her hands burning it to a crisp. The last one the warg was breathing heavily when I slipped down and slit its throat.
I opened the door and let the rest of the group in. The house was two floored with an expansive living room and study on the bottom floor and a bed room on the second. The only thing locked in the house was a chest which I carefully pried open. The chest contained bones, files for potions and powders. There were also Dogfit's private notes on dog breeding.
We find an old manuscript note about a dragon dog. Dragon dogs raised by the ancient Netheril as prestige creatures for the more noble families. A hand written note on the edge said simply "Abraxis knows!"
We ask the villagers for more details about Dogfit and Abraxis. Unfortunately no further details re forthcoming except the joy that he is now gone as well as his hounds. We did ask the innkeeper and found out that Abraxis is a young dragon that lives in the North-East, in the mountains.
He points out a young elven woman called Aranduel who knows the lay of the land and more about Abraxis. She was simply stopping by and going to the High Forest. We asked for further details about Abraxis. We find out that he is a copper dragon hasty and unpredictable. He also had been living in and around the village for nigh 200 years.
In the morning we left to the mountains with Aranduel and climbed the cliff face to the location. We saw in the cold air a nest of wolf spiders look at us and then scuttle away. We climbed the final ledge and looked at the small hole that led further into cliff face.
We called for Abraxis for a while and no answer was forthcoming. We waited the night on the cliff, we waited outside the cave as we were bound by arguing on the etiquette of entering a dragon's cave. I slipped away from the campfire and entered the cave. The cave had been emptied. Only a litter of pillows and blankets indicated that something had been here.
The walls of the cave were covered in acid. We find a lone dark gray scale of another dragon. This told us that Abraxis had been chased away or possibly even captured by a black dragon. We walked down to the base of the mountain and parted ways with Aranduel. I do not know what it was about her, but she made me ever suspicious. A traveler to Llorkh appeared to be a bit - convenient.
We went back to Llorkh and started asking questions about another dragon that of a black dragon. We finally talked with the wizard of the Cloud Tribe and found through halting words that there was a swamp in the north with a black dragon and that there were also lizard men there. Possibly the dragon was using the lizardmen for its own purposes.
When we spoke of going into the swamp, the wizard stopped us and ran out to talk to the shaman and his chieftain. He beckoned us with him and introduced a fourth orc a young orc. A brave. The wizard told that we had come to fulfill part of the the prophecy and this was Orglog the other side of the prophecy.
As we no longer had Aranduel we needed a guide to the swamps. From out under a rock crawled Count Sliss. He was a wily whip cord-like man with a silver forked tongue and an oily disposition. we haggled to and forth and we agreed on 300 gold, especially as he heard we were black dragon hunting. He demanded 100 gold now and 200 later. I was sad to be parted with 100 gold coins, but I doubt he would live to see the rest.
When everyone was leaving and him with his curled smirk on his lips I threatened that I would find him if he led us into a trap. He simply smirked some more and asked that what I had threatened with was nothing more than simply words of a little girl. We had not even started the journey and I hated him with a cold passion.
I was surrounded by the acridest of almond smoke. Every single breath burned the lungs and made my eyes bleed. I held onto the rope, it's rough surface biting deeply. My other hand held my weapon. It was a thin blade of blue steel that when breathed upon, the serpent could be seen, the wyrm tongue, the roeddel. Above me the sound of leathery wings kept me aflight and the scream of the monster in afright. In this vision of nightmare did I thrust my sword into belly of the beast. Sometimes I was successful and the scalding ichor would drip down along the blade. The screaming would increase and then there was but one sound as the muscles gave way and I was bombarded with the vile gushings of its innards.
The dragon above me screamed as started its tumble the claws raking for me. The cloud around me dissipating, below spread the view of the marshland as far as I could see. I let go of the rope and let the marshland take me.
Several days before count Sliss had agreed to take us to the swamp from the ruined half human and orcish city Llorkh. Our plan at the time was to kill the black dragon and free the captured bronze dragon, Abraxis. We thought about for a while and agreed to bring some items.
The dragon we would face would be the fiercest thing we have so far encountered. The thing could breathe acid, create clouds of ash around it. Not forgetting the more mundane attacks of claw and tooth. It had lived in those fetid swamps for most of its blightful existence. I could only now comprehend why count Sliss wanted his money now instead of later.
Sari our wizardess crafted 3 frost potions from among the loot we had found in that abandoned tower from such a long time ago.
I found and bartered for two of the largest bear traps I could find. I also took some rope so that perhaps we could at least capture it. I hoped for chain, but the bits they had in the town were either for around the neck or to berth a galleon.
Meanwhile, Alek our fighter, was tasked on creating shields for us from glass. When he came back he had two leather shields which had more akin to hap hazard stained glass windows. They might only survive one blast, but that was better than death by acidic blast.
The morning started with a deep red sun. Surely a bad omen for the journey to come I thought as I walked through deserted streets of Llorkh. I remembered some of the houses and approached one as if I was drawn by my own feet. The house was derelict. Nothing more than a chimney and some broken thatching with open yawning windows. I stood across from the door which despite all these years had stood fast. It was like my past, gone and shut to my hand.
I am not sure how long I stood there before I heard my name being called. I looked around and saw Alek looking for me. I quickly turned and walked back to Alek. He asked where I had been and I simply walked back to the inn. I promised I would come back.
There we were assembled. Sari eager for the magic she needed to cast. Ka'an a song ready on her lips. Alek with his glassen shield and steel sword ready. The orc, Oglar, with his ritual fetishes. Sliss his salamander appearance, his tongue licking his lips. And of course a taciturn me.
It took us a full day to get to the edge of the swamp and in the waning afternoon light did we make camp. Count Sliss insisted we go in the morning, especially as he warned us in his slithering voice of the lizardmen.
The next morning saw us walk through the swamp. It had an indescribably odor of rotten eggs and mildew. As we descended deeper into the bowl of the bog, a fog swept over us and with the inky water it would have certainly been suicide at night. We saw some limbed shapes in the distance, either dead or asleep we were unsure, nor of who they were. I gripped my sword tighter thinking of the stories of dead armies that still slumbered in the marshland ready to rise again and take fight.
Instead of a great army we found the shambles of lizardfolk in crude leather armour. Their shields, spears and axes scattered. The place was rotten with dead; green clumsy legs, sprawled and groveled along the saps and trunks, face downward, in the sucking mud. Wallowed like trodden burlaps loosely filled;
and naked sodden buttocks, mats of hair, bulged, clotted heads slept in the plastering slime. And then the rain began.
Here and there creatures, limbs twisted all burnt and blistered all over with great suppurating blisters, staring back with cataracted eyes. All dead except for one. I looked on as Sari helped the lizardman to breathe, It's face and neck covered in blisters.
Oglar our near mute new friend says, "Queen found them."
Count Sliss pointed to the corpses and said that perhaps it would be better to turn back for this could be our fate. I rose hand on my sword and turned to him so as best to tell him how to hold his worm tongue. I knew what this would be, I knew how this would end. Luckily for Sliss Ka'an stepped between me and him.
With careful ministration from Sari the lizardman was able to speak. With Ka'an translating we understood what had happened. He was patrolling against other lizardmen. His village the black tribe was to the north, while the rivals, the green tribe were to the east. But they were ambushed and chased by a black cloud or a dark shadow.
We asked more about this green tribe for we were assuredly heading east. This is a stronger tribe than theirs. Already their lizardmen warrior families were joining the other tribe. We helped the lizard to his feet and with Count Sliss's urgings we headed away from the rough field.
Despite Count Sliss' complaints, or perhaps I should say because of them, we escorted the lizardman as close as he dared take us to his village. He pointed the way to the lizardman village. We headed to the east to most assuredly a confrontation with the black tribe.
On the first night in the swamp our first watch of Sari and Oglar heard splashing. We were all shaken awake to this and Alek jostled Count Sliss to ask for meaning to this ominous sound. Count Sliss told us that it would be better to leave the camp quietly. For we were not safe. We all agree, but curiosity gets the better of me and I crawled closer to look into the water. In that moment the water goes still for a while, before the splashing resumes and from the water I could see the shapes of a 30 foot crocodile and around it a snake.
We quietly moved away so as not to become their night-time snack, waiting it out in another part of the swamp. In the morning we went back to our camp, which besides the ever present carrion beetles had not been touched.
As we were about to head east, Count Sliss said that if we were to go in that direction it would be surely suicide. He only knows the route he takes not any new routes. He offers to leave us if we decide to foolishly press on. Despite our better judgment we agree to head back.
It took another night until we came across the lizardmen bodies again. Now there were fewer and we carefully moved around the inky still ponds of this marsh. We got on the right trail and Count Sliss confidently strode forward leading us deeper into the marshland.
Several hours of this confident striding as the tided mist wafted over us and a few more hours until his striding failed its strength and wavers. The mist having pushed so badly in front that we can no longer make sense of what is cloud and ground.
We were lost, wandering aimlessly and possible in circles. Stopping by lump of weed and moss that looked vaguely similar to one we passed much earlier, we demanded to know where we are. Count Sliss admitted that we must have strayed off the path for this place, is no place he knows.
We biker for a bit and as just tempers are to flair, Sari tells us of a ritual to call a hand of fate. This hand would tell be able to signal the direction to go. She prepared the ritual, burning the components produced from her satchel of magical things. The mist parted a bit and a blue incandescent hand appeared. She could ask three questions. And only three. Sari asked the hand for directions - Where the lair of the dragon is, where the dragon is now and finally where is Count Sliss. Each time the hand pointed in the direction of Count Sliss. Although the last time it appeared to waver before pointing.
We headed in the direction of the pointing finger, past Count Sliss and deeper into the smelly bog. Soon Sliss found his way again and we trod on through brackish water and past moss covered trees.
Count Sliss directed us to a rickety bridge, which was made of wines and rude wooden bits. Across it were bushes and an overhanging willow. Both giving us the possibility of dryness and respite. I went first to check the route and the fastness of the bridge, for I was the smallest and most dexterous of the group. I safely walked across trying not to look down into the dark loamy water. Next was Sari. As she got halfway along the rope bridge, there was a whizzing sound as two darts stuck out with black plumage from Sari's face and neck.
I rushed through the bushes and attacked the first dart thrower, plunging it over the ridge into the waters. As I was readying to attack the second one, I heard a bellow and see a lizard of monstrous proportions barreling towards me. It's muscles ripple like a hundred thick water snakes as he swung his copper axe widely for my head and instead of ripping head and splitting bones it chops and buries into the soft bark of the willow next to me. I kept the tree between the lizard and I as he tried to attack me, his companion readying his blow gun when Ka'an and Sari come to the fight. Oglog rushed across the bridge and met the axe of the lizard with his turning it around to wrack across the thing's chest while I circled around. Oglog giving felling blows to the lizardman every time he tried to twist in my direction. The final strike being mine as I slashed it across the back of it's neck while Oglog crunched through bones into the thing's bursting heart.
By the time the large lizard was dead, the other two smaller lizards had been killed. Unfortunately dear Alek was out of the combat as he plunged into loam and his enemy the swamp was much schooled in rebounding the ineffectual flailings of a mere human. We laughed and helped him out. A victory against a smaller foe sometimes lifts the spirits.
We continued along the path through the tree and shrub corpse turning into thick reeds, the height of a great tree and thickness of my wrist. Through this foliage we hacked our way until it started to thin. Through the mist a tree surrounded by fireflies could be seen. From the spots of luminescence a person could be discerned to be sitting under the tree.
Count Sliss urged us to go on and appeared not to see the hag. He looked at us strangely even when we pointed out the tree. It was then that we felt some strange magic was afoot.
We carefully walked across to what appeared to be an island, but was more of an isle jutting in the middle of the water. The person was an old hag, with black greasy hair. She smelled of swamp and effluent and she looked miserable, dejected and sad. She spoke with voice that squeaked and creaked as if not used for a long time. She needed some help with smart hands, she would like us to entertain her and catch some of the fireflies to keep her company and light her night when possible. She told us her name as well after much thought - Mab is what she remembered it to be.
Sari entertained her with a small elven orchestra who with their tiny instruments play a young elven song of summer meadows and love. They wore red caps and had green hose.
Orglar cleaned out her hair a bit and does some magic of his own using his palms and knowledge of the body, revitalizing her body under careful presses, making the woman's bones creak and sweat to appear and a flush of vitality come onto her cheeks.
The elves after finishing off their musical repertoire, bowed to the audience and promptly vanished. Orglar continued with the pressing of the woman's body, while Ka'an can took the vacated stage with a story.
An old woman was sweeping her house, and she found a little crooked sixpence. “What,” said she, “shall I do with this little sixpence? I will go to market, and buy a little pig.”
As she was coming home, she came to a stile: but the piggy wouldn’t go over the stile.
She went a little further, and she met a dog. So she said to the dog: “Dog! bite pig; piggy won’t go over the stile; and I shan’t get home to-night.” But the dog wouldn’t.
She went a little further, and she met a stick. So she said: “Stick! stick! beat dog! dog won’t bite pig; piggy won’t get over the stile; and I shan’t get home to-night.” But the stick wouldn’t.
She went a little further, and she met a fire. So she said: “Fire! fire! burn stick; stick won’t beat dog; dog won’t bite pig; piggy won’t get over the stile; and I shan’t get home to-night.” But the fire wouldn’t.
She went a little further, and she met some water. So she said: “Water, water! quench fire; fire won’t burn stick; stick won’t beat dog; dog won’t bite pig; piggy won’t get over the stile; and I shan’t get home to-night.” But the water wouldn’t.
She went a little further, and she met an ox. So she said: “Ox! ox! drink water; water won’t quench fire; fire won’t burn stick; stick won’t beat dog; dog won’t bite pig; piggy won’t get over the stile; and I shan’t get home to-night.” But the ox wouldn’t.
She went a little further, and she met a butcher. So she said: “Butcher! butcher! kill ox; ox won’t drink water; water won’t quench fire; fire won’t burn stick; stick won’t beat dog; dog won’t bite pig; piggy won’t get over the stile; and I shan’t get home to-night.” But the butcher wouldn’t.
She went a little further, and she met a rope. So she said: “Rope! rope! hang butcher; butcher won’t kill ox; ox won’t drink water; water won’t quench fire; fire won’t burn stick; stick won’t beat dog; dog won’t bite pig; piggy won’t get over the stile; and I shan’t get home to-night.” But the rope wouldn’t.
She went a little further, and she met a rat. So she said: “Rat! rat! gnaw rope; rope won’t hang butcher; butcher won’t kill ox; ox won’t drink water; water won’t quench fire; fire won’t burn stick; stick won’t beat dog; dog won’t bite pig; piggy won’t get over the stile; and I shan’t get home to-night.” But the rat wouldn’t.
She went a little further, and she met a cat. So she said: “Cat! cat! kill rat; rat won’t gnaw rope; rope won’t hang butcher; butcher won’t kill ox; ox won’t drink water; water won’t quench fire; fire won’t burn stick; stick won’t beat dog; dog won’t bite pig; piggy won’t get over the stile; and I shan’t get home to-night.” But the cat said to her, “If you will go to yonder cow, and fetch me a saucer of milk, I will kill the rat.” So away went the old woman to the cow.
But the cow said to her: “If you will go to yonder hay-stack, and fetch me a handful of hay, I’ll give you the milk.” So away went the old woman to the haystack and she brought the hay to the cow.
As soon as the cow had eaten the hay, she gave the old woman the milk; and away she went with it in a saucer to the cat.
As soon as the cat had lapped up the milk, the cat began to kill the rat; the rat began to gnaw the rope; the rope began to hang the butcher; the butcher began to kill the ox; the ox began to drink the water; the water began to quench the fire; the fire began to burn the stick; the stick began to beat the dog; the dog began to bite the pig; the little pig in a fright jumped over the stile, and so the old woman got home that night.
The old woman clapped her hands and applauded. I with my bottle of fireflies came closer. She looked enchanted and reached for the pretties, but I drew back for a moment and she looked very sad. Instead I showed the bottle and turned it over in my hands until it disappeared. I showed the bottle, suddenly bereft of any fireflies to flap open my cloak as they stirred over and were about to take wing, I snatched them out of the air and carefully placed them back in the bottle and carefuly presented it to her.
Alek, neither magician, conjurer, healer, nor storyteller. Used rough hands and a ready hand to chop up some wood for the old woman. We joked Ka'an, Sari and I that perhaps he should take off his shirt instead.
The woman stood up for the first time, the back creaking as Orglar pushes on the hips causing the back to go from hunch to more straight. Mab thanked us for the help we had given her, being so greatly entertained. She hoped we would stay with her, but as Ka'an so eloquently placed it we had a rendezvous with fate and fate said that it would come in the form of a dragon. The gods had made our destiny clear.
Mab warned us about gas pockets and a geyser area between us and the lair of the dragon. She pointed in the direction of Count Sliss and said in her creaking voice to avoid the swamp gas for not only is it explosive, but also poisonous if breathed.
As a parting gift she gives Ka'an a twisted egg for she was the most entertaining of all us. There was an inscription on the egg which Ka'an translated and also the old woman, Mab confirmed - Dragon's terror. It would attract any flying lizard, dragon or no.
We went back to Count Sliss who looked at us suspiciously for we had simply disappeared for a moment, which made no sense as we felt we had been there for hours, but he was true the light which had been fading at the tree was replaced by the faint sun above the haze of the swamp.
I turned back once as we walked away. Already the island was gone as if it had never been there. If not for the egg we could only explain it as madness or magic.
As we went farther even the thickets left us to only the occasional black twigged bush. The geysers bubbled a greenish hue, the stench was overwhelming and occasionally they would not only bubble but a slight blue flame would appear in the distance. This would be followed by a rapidly expanding fireball.
We stopped for a moment and looked across the boiling and occasional exploding landscape. Sliss pointed to the distant bank and says we should go there. I have been the first during this adventure in the marshland and I would still not be last. I carefully walked across the land, avoiding the geysers and the occasional bubble. I reached the opposite side successfully. I watched as Sari circumnavigated carefully trying to follow my path. The last few steps causing a bubble and burst of flame which shocked her and caused her to stumble and be hit by another blast. Despite the hits she arrived only slightly ashen and smudged. Ka'an and Alek carefully walked together. Ka'an holding Alek's hand a few times as each was about to mis-step. Orglar instead simply raised his hands to the sides and walked across the stenched field as if this was a stone tiled church. "Faith", he said when he stepped onto the firmament of our side.
Looking for count Sliss we saw that he was already with us. He looked quite annoyed for a moment before his face repositioned itself into feigned indifference. Perhaps I was the only not only to see the expression but the safe trail he neglected to tell us about.
We wish to go further, but Count Sliss refused to go any further as we are in the only oasis of this part of the marshland. We spend our night camped on this little bank. We dare not a fire for the swamp gas and Sari casts a spell making us only wet, but not uncomfortable. Truth be told I preferred the cold, now I feel as if I am merely among the dead.
The night was filled with willow-o-the-wisps and fireflies as we stayed draped in our cloaks and blankets. There is no sound but the rhythmic snoring of Alek and Orglar. The rest of the vista had the silence of a tomb.
In the morning we could see why we should not have continued. What were geysers behind were replaced with a gray powdered ground in front. Count Sliss told us this is the most treacherous part of the swamp. If the ground cracks it will swallow you up and if that won't kill you the escaping swamp gas will.
Sari thought about this a bit and created a magical disk to transport some of us. I decided that I would prefer to show off a bit and rapidly ran across the cracked eggshell landscape. Each crack splitting off as bits fell away into nothingness.
Only when I reached the other side, was I aware that Ka'an was not to be outdone by my theatrics for she came right behind me. I smiled at her and she barred her teeth as we looked at the rest on their voyage. They were carefully balanced on the slightly glinting floating disk, Sari guiding it like some abyssal oarsman. I do not know what the planes of hell might be like, but I suppose this was similar.
As we assembled on the other side, Count Sliss told us that the dragon's lair was close, two arrow shots away. This was where he would leave us. He was not here to fight but to guide us. He asked for his money and we refused. He shrugged and said that he would wait one night for us. If we did not come back then we had met the end of many adventurers before us.
We carefully approached and can see a bit of a ridge of ground and on it's face a blackened maw of a cave yawned. We checked for a dragon, but unless we actually went into the cave it could not be seen.
Next to the cave was three land masses above the water. The idea of fighting something in the water certainly did not appeal to us. We laid out a plan to place the bear traps on one island, while the other with a bit more of a knoll would give Ka'an the advantage to see the whole battlefield.
So with these carefully laid plans, I was covered in mud and twigs, my eyes barely above the waterline as I trod and swam carefully with my reed straw towards the island where we planned to make our stand. It is thus that I peer across the landmass to see a lizard with an axe walking around.
He was larger than the brute I had seen and fought at the bridge. Across his neck where skulls. Some were definitely human or human like, others avian or lizard. He had a blackened tattoo on his chest of a paw mark. He moved around the islands partially hunting and more for the purpose of guarding its master.
I left the bear traps in the shallow waters of the island. Carefully knotting them each to a piece of roll of rope, which I placed above the water line. Sometimes things in water couldn't be found.
I drifted slowly back to where the rest of the group were. A whispered discussion ensured. Sari mentioned her powers of obfuscation to create a distraction for the sentry, the same powers that could create the elves for the hag could be used for other purposes. The rest of us agreed to be ready to silence the creature if need be.
We waited in among the reeds and moss covered rocks as the voices of lost children could be heard in the forest. They complained about how lost they were and hungry. They were so realistic, I could tell Alek was gritting his teeth to jump up and search for the little lost sheep.
The lizardman turned upon hearing the easy prey. It stopped to smell the air and for a heart stopping moment I thought it saw us. Instead, the beast crept forward quietly searching for the sound and then heading off into the thicket in search of these breakfast morsels.
While we quickly set the bear traps. I had to admit that the screaming sounded quite genuine as the noises moved further into the swamp until nothing could be heard. I threw my cloak over the readied bear traps and the coils of ropes. There was nothing to tie them. The cloak's magic so far excellent against being seen made the traps themselves merge with its surroundings.
No sooner had I placed the cloak on the traps, but a monstrous roar was heard from the cave. Claws scrabbled and massive reptile larger than anything I saw climbed onto the ridge of its cave.
The dragon was at least 40 feet long from nose to tail tip. It's hooked claws the length two of my hands. The spiny ridges along its back ready to tear a lesser creature apart. It's black skin gleamed with the solidness of a thousand schools of fish from the deepest ocean. I looked at it and was terrified. This was pure malice, cunning and terror in one creature. I hardened my heart as it screamed again and took flight.
There it flapped over us, before raining down acidic rain onto us. It's tail swished through the air as I sought to avoid the acid. The drops that did fall on me pluming in moments of acridity, pockmarking leather and burning cloth.
It circled around for another spewage, when I showed it the egg. The dragon screamed and landed close by into the water, leaving a wake behind it. As it used the flesh rending hooks on its wings to climb towards me. Just as I thought it would kill me Alek rushed between it and me and with his stalwart glass covered shield and strong sword arm defended me. The blast of acid dripping down the shield as Alek returned the action with a thrust of his sword which went wild.
Sari our spell caster joined the fight and created circles of flame around it. Ka'an mocked it with her sonorous voice, cause it's head to reverbeate. It howled and scrabbled more firmly onto the island. It ignored the flames and tried to snap at me. I showed the egg and using the same trick as on the old woman, I threw it. Now instead of an egg landing in the dragon's mouth it was two frost potions. The bloom of cold driving deep into it's gullet. The dragon floundering as it stayed and burned it's way through the icen mouth. One of the carefully laid bear traps added greatly to its discomfort as it landed it's foot perfectly in the middle, the trap biting hard into its leg.
The combat was fast and furious, as we fought the dragon with steel and magic. The dragon with its furious abilities of acid, claw and tooth. Now it bled from a hundred pin pricks.
It screamed again at us and summoned a black cloud and hoped to escape. The bear trap on its leg dangling horribly, the rope attached dangling from the darkness. I ran up to it and just caught it as it was about to slip into the skies. Alek was close by me, but not as fast or as nimble as I.
This is the state I was in, holding onto a rope for dear life as I mined for rubious guts in the inkiness of its magical cloud. It was in such a state that the veils before me parted and I saw the vastness of the marshlands. I too was ready to die for I had been mauled in my struggle. The marshland the last foe I would meet and I just a willowy wisp to its vastness.
I wished I could have told my dearest friend what was on my mind as the marsh land reached up and kissed me. It was a wet kiss of the inexperienced. Water rushing into my mouth, the ground tearing at my clothes, branches grappling against my body. The mess of marshen limbs and I was great, our combat had carried us 20 feet or so, judging by the cleared bracken. I was beaten on every part of my body. I was bleeding from somewhere, but I was alive and conscious. I came to my feet and screamed. It was an inhuman scream and I reveled in it.
Further along I could see the body of the dragon and unbelievably my sword jutting out of the swamp hilt first. I limped towards the dragon, grabbed my sword and screeched my inhuman scream again.
I stood on the carcass of the dragon as Alek and the rest came to the place where we were stuck in the damp marshland. It was not I who was the first to drag the carcass through the swamp back to the ridge. It was not I who was the first to eagerly divvy up the carcass into the meats and rewards of the dead beast.
However, I was the first to taste it's warm heart. We all ate a piece except for Orglar who was disgusted by our barbaric behavior. I did not care. For this was that could not be mired by middling rewards. I gave the finishing blow. I was the one who felt it die.
Inside the cave we found another brute of a lizardman. His brethren running after little boys in the swamp. He looked at us and the full knowledge his master is dead he drops his axe and we chase it from what was once the black terror's lair.
In the back is a chained bronze dragon. It growls and snarls at us until Ka'an can translate that it simply wants to be freed. Something I am happy to do as I carefully open the locks that held it into place.
He said his name was Abraxis and as we have freed him, he offered to grant us one boon. Ka'an of course, the only one to speak draconic, asked about the ritual to bind a dragon dog. Abraxis is taken aback and even I can see that this was not perhaps the best of questions, but a boon is a pact and he tells it to Ka'an who with Sari make notes. Meanwhile we look through the hoard of the dragon. Instead of vast riches as I hoped we found some trinkets, a coffer full of gold, scrolls and vials marked by the Cult of the Dragon.
The Cult of the Dragon is a group who believe that dragons will one day rule the world and we should all bend our knees to them. This knowledge was worth more than an animal ritual. Abraxis winged away as soon as he could leave that fetid cave and we walked back to find Count Sliss. Soon we would be out of this marshland and back in the mixed town of Llorkh.
It owul dbe useful to receive some constructive feedback on these.
Beyond a few grammar/typo errors I'd suggest working on a tempo or cadence to how you want to tell the story. Sometimes it reads like a journal entry, other times a straight forward play-by-play, and sometimes some great bit of dialog or thought. I see that you try to break your sections up a bit which is helpful but perhaps think about establishing a voice for the entry (or each section). It may help things flow a bit more nicely.
Don't be afraid to just work on part of the story or just share one scene, unless your intent is to chronicle each session in it's entirety.
Is the campaign still going? Looking forward to reading more!
This is part I of the adventure we had last weekend. I missed out on one game as I was both hung over and with a fever. I kinda want to write something fun, however I do need to choose a style and not just soft of jump from one to another.
It was early spring in Llorkh. The snow was starting to melt and like unto the body once found in bed, the ground was slowly being revealed from its slumber. Jenn looked out across the narrow window out to the hill that overlooked the town.
Llorkh had once been a frontier town to the Zhent, from here the black banners of the Zhentarim would unfurl, leading its covert wars against the region. The prisoners brought back would be taken into its dungeons, some never to be seen again. This was all over two hundred springs and the cataclysm of the spellplague ago. Now the ruins of castle sat on this hilltop, brooding, its interlopers, orcs with their blue and white colored penants with their skull tattoos squatting on its realm.
The stories of the castle echoed from a time when she was but a gelt in this town. Her companions would not understand, she has spoken this being her hometown and their indiference showed their own mark of her. She had grown from that and that girl that ran with laughter was dead. She had died the thousand deaths in the slave pits of Luskan, the gaols of Waterdeep. The latest singular deaths being near naked challenging the brigand Barsch in a refugee camp and by poison admistered by her own hand in her own home in Loudwater.
She sighed and looked out through the window once more. Steam of breath of clouding the window only revealing her ghostly face. She was short and slight by even half-elf standards, with a fluted bone structure and alabaster skin, she looked younger than her twenty odd years. The eyes though told of someone who had grown old quickly.
She moved away from the window and packed up the last of her things. They had just been in Llorkh castle. Even though only overgrown ruins were left of the ground level, deeper down it was another story. It was about dank tunnels, black casements, of chittering monsters. It was about the miasma of oppression that they struggled with every step they went lower into its darkened holds. They were seeking the key of Mystra, a key to an eldritch artefact of a dead god. Jenn snorted at that her mouth twisting as if tasting something bitter.
She looked down into the common room of this rude tavern. The bar was crudely built from lashed barrels. The planks across its top, shining from the polish of untold elbows. The room itself was quite empty, while late in the day, it was still too early for anyone not working. Only her companions were sitting at a table with mismatched chairs. The orcs would often come through and make sure everyone was in their work parties. A drunkard would not last long in a place like Llorkh.
The bartender looked up and down at Jenn as she approached the bar. He was a tall man with a pot belly. His bald pate outdone by the flaming red mustache covering his lip, the upward two curls plastered against his cheeks. She nodded and he drew a beer from the tap and offered her a plate of hard dark bread and smelly cheese.
With these in hand she approached her companions. There was Alec, the only male in the group. He was big and beefy, a human son of Loudwater quarried from earth and chiseled through the training of its local militia. He wore his crimson armour, looted during an adventure from an abandoned keep in the north.
Then there was Sari, robed with a pointy hat. She was reading an arcane tome with a pince-nez perched atop her nose. She was a wizard, schooled in the Arcanum Tower of Waterdeep. A school known for its world trembling graduates.
Ka'an was the lusty one of all of them. Wearing blues and reds of the garish colours, she wore her hair in elaborate curls when possible, showing off her pointy ears and the many earrings in her ears. Even know she was talking with a melodic voice that grated like a rasp against Jenn's nerves.
Jenn listend in as they talked about going back to Llorkh castle. Jenn silently agreed, leaving such a place unsearched would be foolish. They had initially had their fill of fear and now they were ready for more. They talked about rituals and gods to appease to give them the strength to press on with such an overhanging gloom. Alec had been unaffected by it, while the rest, Jenn included had been covered in its lethargic fog.
As Jenn was about to say something the door opened up, reaching in a cold draft. The woman walked in a road dusty, frost covered cloak and underneath fine chain glistened in the moment of clouded late afternoon sun. She pulled her hood back revealing fine red hair and the face of a half-elf. She walked purposefully to the barkeep and asked where might she find the Grayvale Guardians.
The barkeep's hand had pointed at Jenn and the group as they broke off all conversation to see this new interloper. She ordered a cider and requested to sit with the. Hesitantly they agreed as Ka'an nodded her head, her eager smile pressing across her face. The woman, introduced herself as Io, as someone sent by the loose confederation of towns and their mercantile agreements - The Limbian League. She was an invoker of the heavenly host, able to call on shards - aspects of her goddess. That's what she told the group around the table. They talked in that stilted conversational tone of people not eager to trust someone who came so unannouced.
With a touch of rudeness Ka'an requsted Io to leave them for a second while they would have a private conference. Io withdrew to the fire with her cider, while they sarted up their hushed argument.
Ka'an was the first to voice her distrust of anyone coming close to her group. Jenn even drew it further, bringing about the consideration that she might be a spy for Barsch, instead of simply the Limbian League. They looked over at her, her equipment and its subtle power, they and knew the best way to discern between friend and foe was through careful observation in the closeness of the group, an agreement was made.
Ka'an carefully walked over and talked with her apologising about their affectation, a certainty of the after effects of visiting the donjons of Castle Llorkh. She walked with Io and drew into the group with quick introductions of each member there, she filled in about our adventures into Llorkh castle and the cloud of oppression that continued to hang over it. The talk returned to the conducting of a ritual, an arguement of who would be the best god to offer to, who would smile at us the most kindly. Sari finally offersed to conduct a ritual to Ioun, a god of magic and knowledge. A god Jenn had never heard of before.
By the time they made their agreement, the workers from the press gangs filtered in, their tongues lapping the local ale and with the press of more people their voices raising from their mugs. Alec by this time was in his cups and had at times fallen asleep at the table, only to be woken with vocal jabs of Ka'an and sometimes with physical shakings of Sari and Jenn.
The agreement would be rest, followed by the approach to Castle Llorkh and a ritual before entering its maw. They left Alec downstairs as he found his second wind, ordering more ale as he recounted his story of killing the dread black dragon, the head of which he brandished from his bag. Jenn followed the rest of the women to their room. The beds, matresses of hay with thick woollen blankets piled on them. The fire was lit, the cold driven from the room. The black night pooling through the window damping away. The fire left to burn to embers, Sari blew out the candle as they sought to find rest in dreams.
Jenn slept the troubled sleep, she dreamt of a wintry white forest with its cracking trunks. The light is muted. Somewhere up ahead is the refugee camp and in the middle is the tent of Barsch. He would be there, she knew. She moved carefully around snow banks, creeping ever closer. The tree line was close near hands breath away. She heard the voice of a child singing to itself as it walked among the tree trunks. It was picking up sticks and collecting them into a small bundle. Jenn staid still until it was close by. She lunged and grabbed the child, hand clamping down on the small face, feeling the panic struggle of a wriggling body. The knife flashed in her hand crimson, staining her cover as the struggle stopped. The body rolled from her grip to lie face skyward. The child, a girl must have been no more than five, an half elven face, the face was hers - of Jenn's.
It was night and the moon was out, the sound of a creature baying at the moon and the sound of things moving towards her, of flashing teeth. Her flesh stripped in long black strips from her, her body shadowed and sinewy, breath was no longer needed. She was shadow now and she ran to, ran away from the braying monster that was Barsch. She saw him from the corner of her eye brown fur, red eyes and flashing teeth as it struck her against the ground. Teeth flashed in the twilight, burying her in their fetid feeding.
Jenn's eyes opened, listening carefully for any sound. Except for the sound of heavy sighing and the slumber of Sari, Ka'an and Io there was no other sounds. She waited carefully before turning her head. She did not need the dying embers on the hearth to peer through the shadows of the room. She quickly got dressed and left her bedding as it was. Creeping down along the corridor to the steps into the common room. Alec was laying on the top of the table they had left him at in the evening. He snored with the hard vigour he showed when awake. A careful look around was enough before she slipped into the darkness outside.
Capturing a crow, even asleep is not an easy thing. She had to find one perhed on the roof of an abandoned building. She used a piece of string and once captured she plunged it into her bag. The crow fought inside the bag as she withdrew down from her perch.
Llorkh was a ruined town, those not razed by the orcish press gang lying in ruin. She walked into her old family home. The one she left so many lifetimes ago. She cleared out a space and scraped into the floor boards two concentric circles. She carefully painted the central one black with a piece of charcoal. In the centre she placed tinder and lit it. The tinder with careful coaxing turning from firelight to black smoke. She placed it carefully in the centre. The crow was wrestled from the bag, she held onto its neck as it struggled in her hand. She focused on Llorkh castle, she focused on the gloom. She hoped that the sacrifice of a creature that emobodied so many aspects would please Shar. Shar like the crow, represented shadows, secrets, magic and evil.
Jenn held the crow, her fingers clutching at its neck as she looked into its eyes. She saw the faces of her companions, the smile of Sari, the laughter of Ka'an, the boyish grin of Alec, the sneering face of Barsch. The fingers gripped ticher as the crow frantically flapped and scrabbled at her arms, the neck finally snapping as it slumped, muscles relaxing. She dropped the crow in the middle of her circle, a symbol of her life. The adage of Shar coming to her mind: There is no love - only hate. She prayed with that hate, the bitterness that wrapped her soul.
She awoke in the morning as the pale fingers of the sun brushed away the night. She found herself in bed at the inn, recolections from after the ritual dim. Ka'an was long gone, Io was putting on her equipment giving her a small smile. Sari was still asleep. Next to her bed was the bag she had used for the crow, it was weighty and smelled faintly of a corpse smell. Jenn dressed herself and followed Io down into the common room, the bag with the crow body hanging off her belt.
Alec was asleep on top of the table, it took three girls, Io, Sari and Jenn to wake him up. A judicious application of a bucket of water was needed to force him to a lively wakefulness. Ka'an came back as Alec was still drying his hair, his other hand eating a dried strip of meat roasted last night. She had a radiant expression of someone who has finally made her peace - for she had communioned with her goddess of Melora and it had brought new strength. She did not even say one wicked thing to Alec during this time.
While the rest were breaking fast, Io prayed to her goddess for light. She did it quietly, no over sacrifice was necessary, no painting of profane glyphs. It was simple communion. Jenn looked at this action with distrust.
They trudged up the hill as the sun shed further light on Llorkh. Among the ruined buildings, new buildings were built or old ones reconditioned. There were smiles on their faces and some of Jenn's companions even returned the waves. She drew the hood lower and walked on.
They walked past the ruined gatehouse, the orc guards nodded at them, allowing them to pass. To the left was once the castle barracks and stables. Now they were the cobbled fortification of the orc Cloud tribe. They governed this town and sometimes even worked side-by-side with its demihuman counterparts.
They resolutely walked under the careful orcish eyes, deeper towards the ruins of the main keep. Here they had broken through the brick wall into the levels below. Sari gave a small prayer to Ioun as they slowly descended through the rude hole into the darkness below.
I just realised I had written the rest in I or we. This one is a bit more impersonal.
Obviously I need to change it... :P
We re-entered Llorkh castle through the rude hole Alec opened up previously. The place still smelled of a dank earthiness, the oppression of the place settled on our shoulders.
We passed along abandoned defenses. The dust along the ground only marked by our footsteps. The breathy gloom of the place settled harder on us. We gripped our weapons and led down in a long quietly dirged procession.
When the insect creature attacked, it was in some way a relief, the thing came at us when we proceeded through a heavy iron banded oak door. It chittered at us and we vented our fears on it. It ran when our fear turned to anger. Alec dispatched it quite quickly.
We progressed further seeking again to go deeper and lower into the castle. Previously we had passed into level that had been turned into a mine. What the Zhents had been mining in this dismal waste of a land was beyond me.
There was a way which we had not explored. Shadows would move and whip with our torches. Ka'an's laughter at times was not boisterous but nervous. It was becoming harder to think.
We stopped to search three rooms. Barracks rooms for guards long left and dead. There was not much to see. Wrought iron beds with moldy straw beds. Basins now graveyards for dead insects. The fine powder of brown and gray dust covering everything.
Poking through the rooms three gems were found. I wondered about those gems, who was it that had placed them there. Was it a guard who had saved his earnings. Perhaps he had won them in a game of chance. His fellows envious had sought to find them and instead had died by a knife to the gut. Now these blood tokens were ours. I felt confused, I felt the real fear of my time before. It was a fear of my mercurial master. His hand offering, his hand taking.
Along we progressed past the rooms, looking further on this level. There was a portcullis ahead of us, blocking the way. Unlike the previous mechanisms we had encountered. The turn wheel was on our side. This was meant to keep whatever was in, not us out. I grasped the hem of Alec's cloak and tugged lightly. I smiled at him, he patted me on the head as a master would to his dog.
Past the portcullis and a second great door was a long corridor. The ceiling was domed and high as the corridor was wide. From the walls and ceilings, hidden in shadows faded exhortations for the Black Brotherhood I could see. Across from each were cell doors. Some open, most closed. I heard the sound of moans and cries, a mist seeped through the cells and bled into the far wall.
From the wall a giant appeared. It was garbed as a dwarf would do. His beard long and thick. His hammer great for his size. He looked at us and raised his hammer. Madness shined from his eyes and he said something undecipherable.
Groups of bat like things swarmed out from the cells and with an earth shaking bellow he ran at us. The hammer landed next Alec and then I understood how large it was. The hammer the size of Alec. It was close to us. Its essence tugging at our soul, wanting it - needing it.
The bat things were mere irritants, cleaving them was a simple process, but it distracted us as Alec fought ghostly dwarf. The hammer's owner fueled by uncounted years of undead rage causing the walls to chip from its force. A single blow would have killed Alec.
When I feared the worst, of the strike of the hand, Io freed herself of the bat things. Io spoke and gestured, her body radiating light, I cringed as it hungrily lapped around my soul for that brief moment before it was directed at the dwarf. The light burned the creature and Alec's blows driving the creature further back. His sword glowed with a combination of dripping aether and light as he landed the telling blow. The creature fell into dissipating mist.
The cells were empty of anything value. The walls covered with scratchings of its inmates, some marking out patiently their days, others their descent into true madness. How I wondered if the dwarf had suffered the same fate. A death here, twisting his soul into loathsome hatred. His power growing with the loss, until nothing remained except for the hate of all things.
We descended further down, I descended further into the madness of Castle Llorkh. I do not remember how long we walked. We reached the place where our footsteps had last faltered. The location was the opening to the mines, rubble had been piled to the sides. Boulders the size of demons lay ready to be lifted. The bands and loops for shackled slaves hung ready to admit the next respiting work gang.
I had not noticed it, but I had scratched my arms, from anxiety, the rhythmic clasping and unclasping leaving dark blood streaked welts on my whitened skin. We stopped, sinking to the ground, the chains over head looming ominously.
Io started praying, Ka'an sang a song to herself, a song of Melora. Alec looked on, drinking from his wine skin. Sari took out a book, making her notations. We became engrossed in our individual world. And I too became oblivious of my companions. Thought was hard to piece together. My mouth was dry, my tongue leaden.
I took from my belt, my amulet, my talisman. Formed in the night, with secrets my heart. Opening it fully revealed the carcass of a crow, its feathers glistening black. The mark of Shar clearly seen. I had hoped it would help me through this time. I had lost all to fear. Unbidden I remembered the words of Shar, "love is a lie. Only hate endures."
With my thoughts hurting, I looked at my bloody forearms. I took my knife and bled over the corpse of crow. My blood making the feathers wet. I kissed the corpse and whispered my great fear into its ear. When I raised my head I felt calmer, the peace of darkness enveloped me.
I could feel the work of something on us. Each of us had been touched, Io had a lit aura around her. Alec smiled a bit, Ka'an sang a ribald tune about seven swordcoast ladies. Sari offered me a lit pipe and I puffed at it while she looked on in a blissful state.
I passed the pipe on. I whispered to the darkness as I ritualistically plucked feathers from the crow, twining them into my hair until a naked blood soaked bird was left.
The gloom of the upper levels was nothing compared with anarchy of mentality in the mines. In the upper levels it was the thud of gloom, here it was a cacophony of echoing emotion. I stopped and listened, the song was discordant, unharmonious as it sought to twist our essence. A part of me recoiled, that which held the keys to my mind looked on with vague amusement.
The mines were guarded by portcullises which we readily bypassed. The mine's central gallery was split into three paths. Each one an open black hole further into the wormed interior of Toreil. The left hand spur was a dead-end, the third path after a bit of time had a red glow around it. The rock itself glowing with the memories of its potentials.
Time was shifting in this place. Each twist taking us further down along. The cacophony of my mind at times becoming sonorous, other times still with anticipation. The rock also began to pulse as if memory was not enough. Sometimes the light moved as if shadows of things impossible were swimming inside the veins of these rock formations.
Io warned us about the sentience of the rock. Something which I had felt before, but she added the warning of touching them. For me their existence was an antithesis to my being, so of course I would agree to her prognostication.
The place we reached, the redness of the rocks intensified. We could see that this had been further excavated. The rock hewn with eagerness, the timbers to hold the ceiling in place hastily erected. Bits of unfathomable mining machinery lay on the ground. The tunnel continued on past here. The foot steps of something approaching could be heard.
From the opening across from us a humanoid insect appeared, covered in chitinous plates. The arms were long and lanky, two of them ending in pincers, the other two in mockeries of human hands. The hands carried a rusted, black iron trident, blood welled along the tips.
At its feet two creatures followed. They had the stumped bodies of blackened, winged babies. Their heads though twined with horns, its mouth a glittering array of barbed teeth. Their cry was that of a child in primordial hunger as they saw us.
Before the trident bearing demon could react, Alec was already in the fray attacking, hacking this creature, pressing his advantage of monomachia. However he was soon flanked by its children and then hemmed in with one of its claws grasping him firmly.
Little did I care for my own safety as I charged into the fray as the combatants were distracted. I pushed back the veil of my flesh and forced myself into the attack against the creature, my shadow twining around the monster halting it. Alec struck it a telling blow and I from behind stabbed it to a permanent death.
As I surveyed the battlefield, one of the child-demons was dead. The other had disappeared in a puff of smoke, to whatever realm it came from. Alec took the head of creature and the trident, adding it carefully to his collection. I felt the head to be loathsome and the trident vile. But they were powerful objects and I would not disagree with that.
We continue on further. The mine's exterior becomes more rough, near organic in how its shaped. Ka'an told us with Sari agreeing that it was raw chaos seeping into this world. The veins were alive due to the warping character of chaos. From further along a sighing could be heard, it seems to twine around the ever increasing redness of the rocky surface, melding into the choir of voices pervading my mind.
The light of the rocks ever getting brighter, it hurt my eyes as we squinted to spy a large cavern up ahead. The pastiche of sounds and voices mind and aural invading from this location. We all looked at each other, and I volunteered to go ahead, to find the source of the sound.
Ahead I see a deep chasm, two creatures stand guard in front of the chasm. And beyond in the reddish gloom a demon squatted on a pile of stones. This creature looked like a massive, roughly humanoid toad with arms in place of forelegs. Its wide mouth has rows of blunt, powerful teeth, and long spines run down the length of its back. Occasionally it would pick one up and replace it to a new position.
The chasm glowed with a ichorish red, the pulse of raw chaos was palpable, the root and heart of the stain of reality, the scrabbling and screamings of our mind originating from this abyss. It was looking at us, ravening for our set flesh.
I carefully moved away back to the darkness as shadows are wont to do.
We discussed for a while and we agreed that I was to lure the demon out. I was afraid of these creatures, the potential of such raw chaos, and every advantage we should press for it. I would seek to lure the creatures into the other cavern.
I approached and crept closer. Until I was certain that I would be seen. I rose from my hiding place and stood in full visibility of their loathsome eyes. No movement except the angling of heads and the licking of mouths. I threatened and cursed their name with all the vilest holy names I knew. No movement as they gritted their teeth. They stood as if rooted to their places.
After a while since I was not heard from the rest of my companions appeared, as I sought to rant and rave at them. Ka'an quite aptly pointed out that if the fight could not be drawn to them, they would take them fight to them.
Io at this point, looked at them resolutely, with great reverence called on her god for help. A light merged away from her being and fired into a dazzling array across the chasm. From the center of this light an angel appeared.
I had never seen such a divine creature. It had blue skin and long carefully tipped wings. It had a sword of great power and size. To look on such a creature caused black tears to well in my eyes. I knew at that moment that I would never see one again, nor could I feel such emotion. The chaos at the gates of my mind thrown back.
The reaction to such a creature was complete and utter loathing on the previously frozen demons. They spurred into action against the creature, and the largest, something green and horribly toad-like grabbed the angel and ripped into with its claws. The angel such struck recoiled and landed great gashes against its foe. However the demon was angrier and more dangerous, finally ripping him apart with its clawed ands. The Angel was drawn back into the light of Io's being. The chaotic cacophony assaulting my mind returned.
The melee between us and three demons was long and protracted. The toad-like demon grabbed Alec at one point and forced it to attack us. Luckily Alec fought it every step of the way. Alec was a great warrior and his blade could have been the death of us. The battle fought Alec landed a death-knelling blow on the creature. It fell into the chaotic abyss only to re-appear on the rocks across from the Abyss.
I had at this time sought to come to the pile of stones. To see if there was a reason why it protected this place. The stones were not stones, but skulls of various sizes. The demon appeared upon the top of its abyssal pile and sued for peace, it offered us a wish.
Alec would have none of that and was already rushing towards it. I told it we sought the key to Mystra's flame. The demon looked at me with its rheumy avarice filled eyes, it told me that the wish was granted and I was to "restore the balance". As Alec was in striking distance the demon disappeared. On the ground a necklace had appeared.
On the golden artwork, was a frame of ten skeletal hands by ten hands on a balance scale with different weighting platforms.
Alec attacked the skulls, when they would not be crushed he hurtled them away from the mound, until they started rolling back to their place. The skulls of the hill were only six sizes, each similar to the other.
The puzzle was almost given up until we noticed that there were indentations similar to the balance scale next to the mound of skulls. We solved the puzzle and the mound, unpiled itself revealing the treasure hidden inside.
We returned from the mines, every step away from the mouth of the chaos rift, meant one less strand of noise in my mind, one less assail against it's already blackened walls. Until the sky kissed my face in an early spring afternoon. My mind was now silent of the tumult of before.
We talk with cloud tribe, the orcs living so close to such chaos. They agree that something should be done. However, this would demand a great sacrifice. The building of a temple, the waging of a crusade, the devotion of a populace. It would demand a hallowed monument either of stone or deed.
Now we are back in the inn. We are to assemble with shaman of the tribe at midnight in a sweat lodge, we are to talk with the Raven Queen. Goddess of Winter, Death and Fate. I wonder what she would see if she was to peer in my blackened, seared soul?
Stumbled upon your stories and was intrigued, will read them all. Hope it inspires me to comment :p
I hope my writing inspires you to comment.
Even more of the episodes of our game. I still have two more sessions to write.
I will see how much I can get done tomorrow.
I am dead and yet I dream. I dream of a warm bath. I dream of the hot water cascading across my scarred cold flesh. I dream of the recession of the water.
Rough benches lined the walls, a small copper furnace burned in the corner in which a large kettle of hot water boiled. In the middle of the room, a large keg had been turned on its side and cut in half to create a makeshift bath. There was even a small hand mirror which had been hung from a wooden pillar. A small window was slightly open to let in the cool spring breeze and let the cool steam out. The first flowers of the season had been placed in a jug.
I blinked away the tears, as I wrung out my hair. Looking back from the foggy mirror was a wan pale girl. It was the same pale girl I had seen in Loudwater, but this time the mouth was different, there was a determination in the down turned mouth, a pleasure. I looked closer. The eyes were black and started to smoke oily tendrils.
Startled I looked away as Ka'an began banging on the door ready to come in. There was a bit of words going on before the door opened up. Instead of Ka'an coming in who I heard stalk back, it was Io.
She looked me over and I pulled my towel more carefully over my body.
"Isn't it Ka'an's turn?" I said as I looked for my clothes. Sari had already taken all of our clothes in our bed chamber to cast a cleaning magic on them all. I carefully backed against the wall, feeling for it. A brief look away and I would be safely out of the room.
"Oh it was, but I argued her into going last, since they are making more hot water." Io poured some of the hot water from the pitcher into the tub. She winked at me and laughed.
"Could you give me a hand, there's a spot between my shoulder blades I have been wanting to clean for ages now." She pulled off her towel and lowered herself into the water. I carefully moved behind and picked up a soapy rag, as she pulled her golden tresses away from her back.
I wetted the rag in the tub and washed between her shoulder blades. I took the ladle of water to wash away the dirt and soap. I felt dirty looking at her skin. There were none of the ugliness of mine, there was no history besides unblemished purity.
"Is that alright?" I said wanting this to be over as soon as possible.
"A little more. Could you go a bit lower?" Was her response.
She turned and looked at me for a moment before settling back. "Actually there are a few questions you could answer."
The rough wood of the inn's benches bit into my legs as they dangled over the edge. With Alec, the largest of us all he sat with his legs firmly laid on the thrushed floor.
Around us was our sorceress Sari reading. Ka'an with her songs and boisterous attitude. Then there was Io of clean and dainty behaviour.
The rest were happy with their cleanliness. Sari had taken our clothes and thoroughly cleaned them. She had mentioned that mine were becoming a bit tatty, for she could see mine had been mended a few too many times. The seams having been let out when I had grown into them.
We talked about the Flame of Mystra we had recovered from Castle Llorkh and about the chaos rift underneath it. We would need to do something momentous to close the rift, something such as building a temple to an orderous god who would then with a flick of his godly hand close it. In recompense we would toil under that maloderous hand for years if not a lifetime.
We also talked about Barsch, everyone was willing to leave back to Loudwater. I pointed out that we were becoming the guardians not of Greyvale, but of quests unfinished.
We agreed that we would seek to find Barsch. Alec had gleaned a tale from one of the innkeeper's daughters. Apparently Barsch and his cohorts were lycanthropes. Men who would turned into monsters of beasts when the moon was in ascendance. Who would invoke Malar in blood rituals and hunt through the forests. Often those who went at night would not return.
This brought us to the orcs, who had taken over the town of Llorkh in the previous autumn, throwing out Barsch and his kin. Orcs had come down from the mountains due to the pressure of giants and they had taken Llorkh from Barsch's hand. Now the orcs were rebuilding the town with workforces levied from the town's populace.
There was a wish though to commune with the Raven Queen with the help of the orc shaman. For we also wished to close the chaos rift. The Raven Queen would be the best to support such a venture, for she was the patron goddess of the orcish Cloud tribe.
The sweat lodge was built a few hours walk from the town into the wilderness. A rude hut of canvas with an open hole at the top. Inside smoke was billowing, the coals alight. Around the hut were posted orc guards to protect the individuals dangers without and those that could be from within.
Of all the people only Io and Sari were finally invited after the Shaman looked at us. The only reason was that they were the only ones who knew about invocation and the gods. I am thankful the orc only looked at me with a raised brow and moved on. Sari declined, leaving only Io.
Io, the shaman and the shaman's disciples sat in the hut for three days. Not once did they stir from their place. When she came out she was limping and shaken. She had travelled a long distance, as crows, as wind. Of all the sights she saw only one was important for her. A black tower to the east of the mountains. This would have answers. I was however, which were the questions the goddess thought we needed answers to.
We talked further about the chaos rift. Sari and Io were in agreement that it would take decades for it to creep further. Even so the orcs considered it taboo. However, keeping all the doors open would be dangerous. If we could venture in so could others and that which can climb, can certainly crawl out. Having Llorkh turned into another chaos infestation would not be useful.
The conversation invetiably turned back to Barsch. And what we should do with him. We would talk with Uhrog, the chieftain of the orcish Cloud tribe.
Instead it was Alec. For we are all small compared with him. And they see physical prowess as important. Besides women are for children and cooking. I tried not to be sick at the thought.
The all-seeing eye of the shaman has a ritual that allows a person to know who is a moon-man - a were-monster. Alec asked if he could learn the ritual. The Shaman laughs heartly at the thought and makes a funny gesture, pointing with the tips of his fingers towards his heart and then the head. Sari and Io offer to learn the ritual, very politick of them. I relaxed my hand on the dagger in my sleeve.
While Sari and Io are learning the intricacies of the ritual, Alec and I help in sealing up the castle. The portculises which are all facing inwards, we close. While we expected to see some creeping chaos come upon us, nothing appeared in that cryptlike dungeon. The last was simply knocking down the roof to seal the entrance. While this could be cleared in a day. It would at least prevent a child and the curious to enter.
Finding Barsch would be the hardest thing to do. For while we had stumbled across his last camp. We did not know where he had relocated to. However, a large group of people as we saw when we met him the first time would leave a long trail. However, searching for him specifically may not be the easiest thing to do.
We instead employ the hand of fate. Asking three questions of this mysterious apparition would be a solution. We find out there are about 20 werewolves, they will attack us if found. We discover where the camp is approximately. I showed the hand a map I had been making while we had been adventuring. The finger pointed to a place, which was some way from the original location we had previously stumbled upon.
We gather our things from the inn and get ready at first light to move out, heading along the road towards the locaiton of the camp pointed by the hand of fate.
The hills near Llorkh slowly turn into flatlands of scrub and long grass. Soon we could see the large forest we will need to walk through to get to the camp. We stop at the edge, for it had already gotten dark, and unlike some not all of us could see in star shrouded darkness.
Even in the morning, the forest was dark, still. The canopies above kept out the sunlight, the vestiges of winter mist swirled around our feet. Still even here the signs of spring were apparent, the leaves were budding and a few green buds could be seen sprouting. The grass was dried from the winter, but wet. Soon it would turn green from the added moisture.
The trees would seem to move. There were times when it was not wind which was moving but the trunks and boughs themselves. We slowly became aware that it was not our minds playing tricks, but that the forest was alive. The forest was looking at the strange interlopers, gnarled branches upraised in silent threat.
In the true twilight of the forest, we made camp in a hollowed glen. We were very close the camp. Possibly a day more or less. We huddled down in the damp undergrowth. The mist leeching the heat from our skin and leaving cold moisture running rivulets down our backs. We dared not light a fire in this place, for the forest is easily angered and the camp could be too close for smells and sights of a fire.
In the early dawn Ka'an went out scouting. She found a clearing of cracked trees and deep furoughs. Apparently from the scaled embedded in the ruined trunks and and the spoor it was a dragon. She could not say how large the dragon was, but it had cleared itself a place nigh three days ago. We carefuly walk around the clearing, for the dragon could still be around. Perhaps this is what had awakened the forest from its still wintry slumber? Or was a greater chaos on the move?
Ka'an and I walked ahead carefully scouting ahead. I did not see the path that Ka'an saw, nor was I as nible through the confusing undergrowth. I tried not to curse as I focused instead on using my other senses. Sight, touch, smell and most importantly sound. Forests and their expectant silence unnatural to me.
Even a blind pig will find a truffle sometimes. We found the camp in the sunset of our second day in the forest. It was positioned close to the forest for protection, but not so close as to be enshrouded by it. The sounds and smells of the camp were obvious to us.
From my vantage point I saw the hemming of scores of people and three stout log cabins. The people were sitting around camp fires and their stew pots. Occasionally children would be seen running or walking around the camp. For me to see and hear them I would have to go closer.
I crawled carefully back and joined the companions further back. Pine cones and twigs became the huts. The scratchings on the earth the firepits, loose mulched leaves into throngs of people.
I was lying on my face in the heather outside the camp. My breathing held as booted feet walked near me. I could hear the tinkle of the belt and the breath of air as the man splashed out his bladder into a bush nearby. It was night and I could be found.
I kept my eyes closed as he finished his needs and joined his friend. They continued their walk. I waited 5 breaths before moving lizardlike closer to the camp.
Before I had come close the encampment, I had gatheried leaves, dirt and the greenery of the underbrush. I had festooned my clothing in the muck, attached the green and branches to my cloak until the girl underneath could not be seen, instead resembling somekind of shambling growth.
Master Jaeger Treach was in my mind. Murder. Barsch. Master Jaeger Treach. Death and the madness of it.
It was long past noon that I joined the rest. I had slithered back into the folds of the tree line. I could not find the way, so I slid under the boughs of a tree and fell asleep.
Ka'an nursed her shoulder and the wound there, for she had run into a patrol and was attacked by one of their hounds. I was not concerned for she was worried whether it would fully heal and if not what would the blemish look like. I had not seen Barsch, only his muscled lackeys.
Now we sat consulting the hand of fate, a blue etherial hand. A definite yes was given to Barsch being in the encampment. The rest of the questions were meaningless.
I still smarted from the fight with Ka'an. She was standing 10 yards away from me, behind me. We had just hidden the bodies of 2 dogs and 2 werewolves turned human. Now the blood was in the ground and on my blade, was I interested in the making of amends.
In front of us was a little fire with the illusion of ragged humans huddling and complaining of the cold, of hunger. They were our lure and 4 guards had already moved in closer to the fire. It was a quick and brutal fight.
Each attack whittling down their numbers. From Omega to Alpha, I wished, nay craved for Barsch's heart.
We never reached the village, instead we were chased by Barsch and his allies. We sought to reach a location of security, a clearing we could use. Instead we ended up finding our escape cut off by a great tree. The trunk flat against the forest floor still 8 feet above us. The branches still alive grasping towards the heavens, each finger thick as mighty oak trunks.
In that place we mae our stand. We fought with steel, with magic, we fought their assault. Each felled creature a victory. Until only Barsch was left. I threw caution to the wind and attacked him from above. I was but a distraction to his teeth and claws. Alec raised his sword and with a deadly reaping strike laid a telling blow on the head of creature.
He did not fall, instead he ran. He ran into the forest and we pursued to the camp. Our vengeance, our lust for blood great. We approached the village and laid claim to its people and they raised their hands to us and wrung them.
Barsch was in the village. He was in his lair of a hovel. We stormed to him. We did not feel the blood in our teeth. The bite of the wounds across our bodies as we rammed the door to let us in.
I was smaller and more agile than some, and I climbed in through the window. There was Barsch. Black hair windswept, his beard wild. He was lunging through his possession. His were rat assassin chittering next to him. I sought to reach him for a blow instead he rushed me with his sword. His two handed blade was blunt, even a club in his gnarled hands would have crushed my ribs the way he did.
I fell and lay on the floor. Poor little Jenn. What a useless creature she is. For all she is good for is dying. I was dead and yet I dreamed.
I was dead and yet I dreamed. I dreamed of Master Jager Treach.
Time runs differently in Treach's household. When he was with you, time dragged. When he was away time sped for his arrival.
It was dinner. The wind discomfortingly swept through our decrepit house with its hint of sea breeze. He had drawn himself up to his accustomed high chair, his gnarled club of authority resting among the other implements on the table. Tonight was not unlike every other, he was drinking.
There was 15 of us sitting on the sides of the great table. Those closest to him in chairs, the rest of us on low benches of rude wood. Three winters had past since I had first crossed the broken lintel of His house. Each season had seen our eyes harden. Many had passed through his doors. Few left alive.
Nica was a recent addition. A girl of possibly fifteen seasons, with dark hair, browned skin and shocking green eyes. Like so many she had been transported from an unknown destination to Luskan. Here she had been brought by Master Jaeger Treach.
She and a girl of 10, Anna, brought the pot of mutton from the kitchen. Anna was weak and showed the signs of a long term resident to his table. They placed the pot on the table.
We all eyed the pot with the hunger of bellies unfilled as it sloshed its hot contents. The mutton was pulled out from the broth and placed on the stained chopping board.
He eyed us with a theatricality as he picked up a knife from the table and sharpened it with his whetstone. He looked at us with that disdained eye of near boredom. He picked up a hooked fork and sunk its two steel prongs into the flesh of the haunch, slicing meat from bone with practiced ease.
He took the slab and placed it on his plate. And cut into its juicy part, his mouth sucking the fat. "Wine" he shouted as Nica picked up the pitcher and with trembling steps approached the proferred cup.
The wine sloshed in as she poured. She stopped just in time as he quickly withdrew his hand and greedily drunk the contents, some of it sloshing across his face and neck.
"Wine." He shouted and she poured again. This time she was not as quick as she spilled it across his hand.
The speed of Jaeger Treach was something of legend in the household as he cursed her in terrible ways for her spillage. His hand forgetting the sloshing wine cup as it splintered across the flagstones. His hand grabbing her hair. He pushed her face down on the meat on his plate.
In this manner he ate his mutton, his knife as the slicer, her face as the fork. All the time he berated her, her heritage, her virtues. Vile words came from his mouth as she cried and screamed. The argument from him rose as she sought to fight him off as his advances raised from verbal to physical.
The anger of Master Jaeger Treach was something of legend even on the streets of Luskan. To deny him, was to deny the gods themselves. In this case a sharp knife can be a great force for anger. She began to howl and he no longer liked the cut of her mutton. The knife held, but beyond some love nicks which we had all experienced, she was still whole.
When he says silence. We obey. She did not obey. He took her head in a vice like grip and forced her head into the pot of mutton soup. She struggled as he kept her submerged, the flagon was upended. There was the clatter of crockery as her struggles subsided into tremors.
Her body lay in a heap on the floor as he called for more wine. We had held each others hands palm down against the table as the episode subsided, I struggled with fear but my companions held my hands with their combined weight. A fresh flagon of wine and cup were brought.
We supped on the soup, the night's merriment over. I had a long dark hair in mine.
Master Jaeger Treach.
I have one more adventure session to write up.
I was dead and yet I dreamed. I dreamed of Master Jaeger Treach.
The night's merriment was over, memories of Master Jaeger Treach being super imposed over the newer Barsch. Barsch was the villain, he was the monster in this world.
Forget about, kindliness of man, of love of family, of the sword of justice. These are words of power clothed. The naked power was that of desire for another, chains of fear, murder for enjoyment. These were powers I knew, these were the tools of tyranny - the hallowed blood and bone of humanity.
A voice echoed in my head. It promised me that this was my fate. The grist of the machines of humanity. I could lie down and be their plaything, but I would not be allowed to. For I was his hollow of earthly delights.
The blackness that etched across my mind receded. Heart burst, lungs exploded, eyes bulged, the stomach heaved as I wretched my blood stained contents on the floor of Barsch's cabin.
Surrounding me were my sword companions. Mighty Alek, a giant of a man - a warrior. Vivacious Ka'an, an elvish daughter of the forest - a bard. Concerned Io, an innocent elvish girl - an angel summoner. Intellectual Sari, a daughter of Waterdeep - a wizard.
Among their number was no wolifish Barsch nor his rat faced lieutenant. Breathing was difficult as I was forced onto my feet. What had once been crushed ribs were now mended whole by that which lived in me.
Barsch was gone. He had run away liked a whipped cur, his tail slinking between his hind legs under the bellow and up thrust sword of Alek. Now that adrenaline had lowered we were left with the spoils of Barsch's hut and the followers of his camp.
Some of Barsch's things were easy to collect, but the chest under his bed was another matter. Barred with four locks and long bands of iron, it would not open with force, but only under a careful touch of a pick lock.
I opened the first lock to be only pricked with a poisonous dart. Shadows formed across my eyes and I slumped down. I awoke again, lying next to the chest. I could feel a welt across my arm, the poison dribbling out of my arm. I could feel the being in my head, soothing me, I would not be allowed to die.
The last of the locks succumbed under my numbed hands, bleary eyed I crouched freeing the last one. Inside was the treasure Barsch had collected. Magical items usurped and gold hoarded.
As is usual Ka'an eagerly dived into the hoarde, for she is the one who wished the most pleasing, the greatly rewarding items. I was pushed aside as they looked over the spoils.
My spoils were 1 log cabin, 2 huts, 150 people. Most of those were the elderly and children. I had never forgotten the reason we had come.
I was dragged back into the conversation. I was handed an item from Sari's bag. A silver circlet. The disparaging remark was that I was always the one to die and they would have to come and rescue me.
I flung away the circlet and stalked from the hut. I was beside myself. I was black with rage. Sari was the one to rush behind me. She was the one who said something. I did not understand her words. I saw the circlet and snarled at her.
A strange thing happened. I did not turn into a wolf from mine then momentary affliction of lycanthropy. Instead, I saw the shadows of the world alive a veil lowered. The temperature of the spring evening was touched with a wintry pall. Frost collected on the circlet as I grabbed it from her outstretched hand as I fled on shadowed feet and tattered cloak into the forest. There in the darkness I cried in fear and brooded for strength as I cradled my threadbare soul.
In the morning, their Jenn walked back out of the forest. I had to have control. Emotions are weaknesses that would not function with them, I could not be a liability and could not portray myself so.
While I had been gone, guards had been setup and the camp had been counted. Dutybound I helped with the inventory. 3 huts, 10 tents, primitive tools, 50 men, 50 women, 50 elderly and children. For they were my secret treasure.
However, there was the great concern of us becoming werewolves and we also needed to know how many of the villagers were equally afflicted. It was my great fear, for not only was I bitten, but so was Sari and Alek. We did not know what would happen when the moon came out and we would turn. Something was pulling us, animalistic and vicious.
We had a ritual to see how many of us were afflicted. A stag was caught and ritually slaughtered, we and the rest of the villagers hummed the dirge-like words issuing from the voice of Sari and Io. We felt the pull closer, more apparent. Our nature came to the fore. Some of us howled at the moon. Others more deeply affected by the curse shivered through partial transformations.
All the children were unaffected, some looked on wild eyed at the transformations affecting their parents, their neighbours.
It had been five days since Io and Sari left for Loudwater. Six days from when the ritual had been conducted. Near three weeks to the full moon. Every night another passing to our encrouching doom. Every day closer to my last. Would death be preferably to monstrous transformation?
Alek had become the headsman of the camp. The adults turned to him for assistance, for guidance. Before Barsch decided on the minutae of the camp. Now Alek, the reluctant leader, had been thrust into this role.
I had taken upon myself to help the children. To protect themselves against their parents when they changed. To defend them against the violence of an adult like Master Jaeger Treach. Correction - Barsch.
However, my advise was not welcomed by the parents. They said that my behaviour frightened the smaller ones and they were afraid of what I might turn the older ones into. It was therefore better to meld into the shadows and wait for the inevitable.
Sari and Io arrived back with supplies from Loudwater today. An ox, a mule named Henry, knives, bows, blankets and other tools and sundries. Alek welcomed the arrival with great enthusiasm for he had requested wine.
The days to the full moon are hazy. We broke into different groups. Some parts are in better memory than others, my brain addled by what happened. My pen shakes with the thought of the days that came to the glistening moon.
There was the memory of Alek, his breath stinking of wine as he stroked my face, saying something indecipherable, before turning into Barsch's cabin.
There was the memory of Ka'an and Sari returning with water. The mule and cart laden with troughs of water.
There was the memory of going to Loudwater. The hollow empty room which I had vacated in the winter. The shadows clung to the dark stained elm walls darker than before taking on a life of their own.
There was the memory of Brother Gryffon sacrificing a strange creature a "white belly" to Silvanus. Of being told that the solution to our affliction of lycanthropy was hidden in Loudwater.
There was the memory of my skin crawling of panic, of the burst of shockwave throwing us against the wall as the flame of Mystra burst into white flame. Of it consuming the clothes of Ka'an the initiator of this most dangerous and imponderable artifact.
But these were secondary, simply memories that circle in random pattern the day before the transformation. I hold my pen and pause.
When we had returned from Loudwater I had carried out the request by Alek. He had requested more wine. I had brought back two kegs of wine.
As the moon started to wax in the night sky. Io and Ka'an had left to found a camp a days walk away from the camp. There tey brought the unafflicted - the children. Sari was away in Loudwater, consulting Kurufar.
This left me and Alek in the camp. Alek had taken to the wine keg. No longer was his wine drinking confined to the night hours, but now it sopped and sloshed into the day time. As the days crept to the fateful night of the eve of the full moon. His habitual drunkenness became worse.
My own nerves were becoming fraid, fear was building up. I could feel the changes coming over me. Soon who I was would be ripped apart by these two forces. I heard the voice in my mind promising that he would not lose me. He would not let me go. His vessel would not be touched by such a personally malignant force.
I do not remember what the fight among the camp dwellers was about, but it was some petty argument which forced me to being involved in. I snapped at them. My black gorge rising to my throat, a murderous rage swept before me as a black veil drifted over my face.
Alek found me in such a state, the ground under his feet touched with unnatural hoare frost. He was dishevelled from lack of sleep. His eyes red from too much drinking, he took another swig from the mug that had not left his hand for ere three days now.
I argued with him. I called him a drunk and other more foul words. I viciously mocked him, not with the wordsmithery of Ka'an, but terror lead hate. The frustration of the past few weeks taking control as I called him for what he was.
The strike that he did against my face. His gauntlets of ogre power smashing the mug against my face. I landed sprawled against the ground. It was inevitable, it was expected. It had been a long time since a man had hit me like that.
A side of my head hurt from where he had struck me. I could have been quiet. I should be a good little Jenn and have staid quiet. Instead I did not cry from pain, I laughed at his weak action. I laughed as he walked over and he landed more blows. I stopped laughing when he stomped on my knee. I stopped screaming when he kicked me in the ribs. I lay still when he picked me up.
Through blurred star studded vision I saw the entry to the hut and I fought him with all my ineffectual might as he threw me on the bed. Blessed unconciousness took me.
I was laying fully clothed in the bed in such a state when Sari arrived. Alek was drinking like a clockwork golem on the steps directly from the keg. I tried to move my body, but every sinnew screamed upon its impossibility. I saw double.
I drifted between wake and sleep. Night's cold saffron touch was up as the nightmare of the first change took over. The affects of it ripped my body. What was broken mended in horrible contortion into whole. Madness descended. The last sight was the face of Sari as the change sought to take over her as well.
Final part done.
We were currently in the forest. What happened during the change were only hazy blurs. I did not split myself in two. I did not die. I was cursed to dwell on this firmament called Faerun.
Every passing moon phase would cause the animal nature in me grow more powerful. The intoxication of the hunt, of a mouth full of red flesh, tasting the fear in the blood. To throw myself so fully into the heady blood drunkedness of being the child of Barsch. These were anathema to the very core of my being.
A cure could possibly be found in Loudwater. It's movement inexplicably linked to the artifact of the Flame of Mystra. A creation which could be our saviour with its power being so apocalyptic. The artifacts of stories such as the Nether Scrolls, which created Netheril Empire. These spawned such abominations as Karsus who in hubris sought to ascend to godhood by consuming the magic of Mystrul. Mystra was the catharsis of Mystrul.
Thultanthar, turned to the shadow weave, returning back to Faerun as the City of Shades. Such artifacts, relics had a terrible mind of their own, or so the stories warned. The stories told to fat children in warm homes to frighten them to be obedient. I had no need for stories. However, equally I had felt my fill of limitless power.
We talked for a long period of our options. We decided that we would seek to remove Barsch, for we could not look for a solution to our affliction of lycanthropy while Barsch could haunt us from the borders of the forest. A council of five was selected from among the camp members.
Already a day after the ending of the apex of the moon cycle we had left for the darker regions of the forest. Another three weeks or so and the moon madness would be upon us again.
This was no pleasant pastoral forest but a primordial and brooding one. The thick underbrush broken by the occasional deer path hid cliff faces, rough boulders and burbling creeks that turned into cascading waterfalls. The trees gripped the ground with outstretched roots, their branches grappling each other for glimpses of skylight.
Every morning and every mid-day we would cast the magical hand. It would point us in the direction of Barsch. Every point of its hand led us deeper into the unforgiving environment. It no longer felt that we were at the point of the hunt, but as if we were being led. Branches would tear at our faces, roots would trip us up. Poisonous plants would sting us leaving reddened welts.
Without Ka'an leading us, we would surely be lost. Each step was becoming harder. The gloom of foliage was added to by the weight of being watched. This feeling was that the forest would eat us and swallow us whole.
In such circumstances sleep was a poor choice. We spent the nights awake as things crawled and eyed us from among the leaves and boughs. On the third day Ka'an saw marks of something 10 hands tall being hunted. The foliage was ravaged and deep gouges of some creature were across the root of a tree.
Emotions started to run over as we progressed. Alek sullen at first was now angry and indignant. Ka'an's dragon hound became more like a puppy at the heels of Ka'an than a war hound. Whatever the chase is about we are coming closer. Have we become hunted?
On the fourth night, Io and me were standing watch. We have not received any sleep, when sleep had come mine has been nightmare filled. So when we saw the light moving among the trees we thought perhaps it was a trick of light, a spirit. We never thought it could be anything worse.
The light creature awoke the forest. Strange twig things and a large forest creature formed from the vegitation lurching into deadly life.
It was a cold wet morning to which we found ourselves in. We had not slept and our nerves were frayed. An argument broke out at one point on whether to continue or not. I wanted to continue. Barsch and his death was close. I could taste it.
We continued on deeper into the forest. Trees crowded around us, bushes that had been previously only hip height were now 7 feet tall. Their thorns displayed to tear into our open unprotected flesh. We could hear something up ahead a flapping sound of leathery wings and the scream of a creature.
Behind the bushes and trees we spied a large green dragon and a selection of hulking forest monsters. It stopped toying with the wererat, raking its face and shoulders with its fore claws. Barsch growled at it. Words were exchanged between Barsch and the dragon. It cast a curse on Barsch, the muscles flowed, the body changed as what was once Barsch was being re-molded. The pain of Barsch its great pleasure.
I charged, we charged. I would not be denied my blood. It smiled at us crookedly. It lept away with the creature that was once Barsch and left us with its hunters - trolls and were creatures. We were denied our prize.
We were heading back to the lighter side of the forest. Away from it. I wished to continue hunting Barsch, but we were badly wounded and the trail had run cold. There was nothing we could do further. I cursed the gods, for the wicked in this world could go fat. Their destruction only important to the gods when convenient.
Only when we came back from the forest did I seek to speak to Alek. My words of daggers simply thudded into his dead heavy shoulders. I felt the worse for it, until I was reminded that his kind will always be like. I do not know why but my actions and thoughts made me sorrowful and bitter at myself.
Lady Moonfire's library was always a magical place of richly laquered beech paneling. The oak table burnished to a deep red. On top of our heads a large chandelier hung, the lights on it magical. She was talking about how a blight had taken over the Southern Forest. The same forest in which was had only a few days ago had hunted for Barsch.
Jun Haleck, a druid and sole survivor of an attack against his grove stood next to Lady Moonfire. His headress with great elk horns rested on the table. His news was dire, his four other companions had been slaughtered, the grove defiled by a greater green dragon.
The dragon's power was what I believe we had felt in the forest on our journey to hunt down Barsch. It was the dragon which we share as a mutual enemy. Ka'an explained that it could be the same one of our experiences in the forest.
The druids bushy eyeborws raise in amazement and lower in consternation. He praised and admonished us for being brave - if not fool hardy, for being lucky - if not fools lucky.
He explained that he had heard of our afflication from Lady Moonfire. He offered to help us find a solution to our affliction in exchange of accompanying him to the grove.
Tomorrow we head into the forest to seek out the druid's grove. Death lives in the forest and into its maw we will be walking. Tonight I plan on drunken self-destructive revelry at the Green Tankard Inn.
I am Jenn. Once there was a longer name attached to it. Once there were ribbons in my hair. Once there was the laughter of running through fields, to the chuckling admonishment of my mother. Once there was being hoisted in the air by my laughing father, of being tickled by his orange beard.
That Jenn of the longer name, died a long time ago. Her recklessness died in the escape. Her laughter was buried with her father. Ribbons she had felt before, but not to tie the hair, but to bind the hands, to hold the tongue. Her childishness had died.
I am. I have become less, more. Dangerous in what I am. I no longer lead, I follow from the shadows. The shadows speak to me. Whisper half forgotten secrets, I bleed into them, they bleed into me. They pregnate me with their silence.
Perhaps it would come as no surprise to find out that I was sitting on a tiled roof. The sky black with rain. My body heavy with rain soaked cloth. I watched him lurch his way from the yawning light of the inn door into the street. Under one arm a girl of this town. The other hand holding the sloshing wine skin. The laughter of the girl piercing the night as they ambled to the corner. Her playful admonishments of his advancements piercing through my eyes and ears.
I stood in half crouch and walked off the roof. I hit the ground hard. Limbs creaking, sinews gasping. I did it for effect, the effect of striking pain into me. I stood and walked around the corner in the direction of his hearty chuckles and her loathsome titters.
I listened to their rhytmic breath outside their window. They lay in each others arms, sleeping the sleep of drink. I had listened to the words, the sounds, the unity of two as one. I felt the bands of my heart. I felt the nails driving deep in there bleed. My mind was unfettered, as I drank of my own flask.
The human in me yearned for that touch, screamed for it through a tear drenched pillow. The shade in me looked at this with the bored dispassionate attitude of the turn key, beholding the delusions of the love mad.
The human side touched the window carefully, the shade side turned me callously away, back into the darkness, away from the warmth of the rising sun.
In the morning of this spring, I was standing under the shade of an awning of a house. Already my companions were readying themselves.
There was the boistrous half-elf Ka'an talking in her hearty way with her adoptive mother Lady Moonfire. Both had their youth to them, taking them back to the cusp of adulthood.
There was Sari, bookish sorceress with her book imp. It chittered at her and she whispered into its ear as a mother would wont to do.
There was Io, she studiously nodded as the druid, Jan Halek, explained the finer points of the forest. His beard long and grey. The deer antlers on his brow long and crowning. His attitude towards her grandfatherly.
Then there was Alek. He had just arrived. He shared some words with the woman from the inn, the night before. She straightened out his shirt and kissed him deeply.
Lady Moonfire admonished the two lovers as a mother wont to, before guiding herself and the girl away into the town waving our party adieu.
The rest of the party turned to leave and I followed.
The experiences we had of the Southern Forest were explained to Jan as we moved ever increasingly close to the skirts of its northern tree line. Io talked about how she had lost some of her divine guidance, a rift from the divine creating despair and longing.
Sari asked Jan about lycanthropy, for Sari, Alek and I had been bitten. We had already experienced three nights of madness last month. When would the turning into a full lycanthrope take us?
Jan who had some knowledge of the affliction of Malar, the god of the Great Hunt, explained that it would be many moons until it would take full affect. He also told us that would be best that we did not mention our affliction among civilized society or that we had lived among lycanthropes. For after all that which is different is shunned and that which different and dangerous is expelled.
However, he would help us if we helped him reach the druidic grove. He was greatly concerned of what was going on. He had felt or seen his companions in the druidic circle dead. The grove was something he could only find. The nature of the magic around it, prevents the curious and the unattuned to enter the circle of the heart of the forest.
The forest had become darker. The shadows occasionally pleasantly writhe over my body. My companions have in turn become more edgy. The forest has also turned more wild. The leafy growths more diseased. A wet rotting smell had permeated the air. The limbs of the trees started to grow more twisted. The overhead canopy of intertwined branches deeper like angry fists.
The shadows claw at me, the brambled limbs rip into me. The wet moss licking me. Hours in, I am bleeding from the rips and tears of the angry forest.
A sound is heard from behind. Jan stopped us and he turned to investigate. A rustle of the canopy could be heard, the sound of a gigglish infant. The long glistening body of a snake, the infant like human head. It burbled in childish glee as it as it struck at Jan with viperous hinged jaws and teeth.
The snake with head of a child mewled with milky eyes as Alek finished it off. The tail still curling through the underbrush.
Jan leaned down next to it and muttered arcane words, slowly brushing the skin as it lay still. The deformed creature lay dead as Jan turned to address us.
We were close to the source of corruption. The snake was a manifestation of the twisting of nature to some malefactors will.
We all rested as he explained more about the deeper aspects of nature. Alek nursed a heavy wound. The poison coursing through his veins for some moments longer before, his vitality returning to him with the prayer of Jan.
In this state we rested. Jan admonished and requested us to be on our feet. For there might be a dryad in the grove still alive. It could be but matters of moments to save her. Bloodied mice among the curls of a dead snake we moved on.
Ka'an was singing, the rotten smell was now a taste. The west leaves of the trees hanging corpse like from withered branches. The carrion beetle and maggot were crawling among the underbrush. Once the yellowed ribcage of a creature could be seen through the foliage and black insect swarm. A green fog encircled our legs, lashing our hands.
Through the haze we stumbled into the grove. What may have once been a sylvan scene was only met with willful decay and wantom destruction breeding. Lilacs from the churned ground mixing. Memory and desire, in the burnt choked air stirring. Dull roots splashed with spring rain, fed by the burbling brook, the fat of corpse mountains long past twisting.
A little life with dried tubers wilting.
Into this no mans land, do I crawl. Maggot-like do I slither. The careful extraction from tangle vine. The slow immersion in the sink holes of a createred landscape. The slow trudge through the mire until reaching the corpse of once proud trees. Their stumps in shattered monument of the one tree standing.
One tree stood in this fouled field. It's branches strong against the onslaught of nature. The roots deep in the flowing firmament. It too was dying, but like the face of an ancient soldier staring into the face of the enemy. It stood proud for the final plunge. Broken withered limbs bulwarks against the enfilades. Victory through death it cried.
I withdrew from its position and approach again with Jan, the last druid of this grove. He approached the tree, each foot step finding firm ground where all I could find was mire. Not a hair of dirt on his robes, while I trammelled through this mirk. His movement to the tree like that of a woman approaching the ancient soldier who in his infirmancy has withdrawn into the darkest regions of his mind.
Soldiers take on many forms. In this case the being emerged from the shaft of the tree was a green elf of exceptional beauty. Words would be awkward fledglings to describe the elegance and poise. I felt green eyed envy at her, a dark welling of bile that I will not spew on this ledger.
We were digging nde her direction into the loamy ground. Reaching for the white maggots of her former compatriots. The first to pull out was a woman, once maybe of indeterminate age. Her body showed the rose petals of the knife. The blood kisses of the spiked whip. The bite of the beast. All of her former beauty lay in the tangle of blonde scalp that lay on the jagged stump which was her headmarker.
Each of the four bodies so raised, showed equal marks of torture and defilement. Here was power, here was sadism, here was a cold purpose that drained it of its hedonism.
Sari was perhaps the only one who could talk with these creatures. The dead could be made to speak and perhaps the mind of the one behind could be encompassed. What manner of dark desire raised its hand so, what blackened power did they hope to grasp from these shattered stumps?
A riddle given and a circle of the dead to divine. We place the bodies at roots of their shattered trees. Each body having position. The two alive, the dryad and Jan take their positions.
With a grave voice Jan speaks the ancient tongue. Words of roiling reality, moving, mingling with the blasted landscape. Ghosts of trees of the grove appear. Spirits of the dead appear as time parts under its force.
The ghosts are of two wolves, of one bear and one owl. Each representing and aspect of nature unsullied.
The conversation is heady as they speak in tha language of formation. Sometimes an errant word would roil to the ground causing marigolds to burst forth only to wither to nothingness in a heartbeat.
Words of knowledge etch themselves in my mind. A ritual to cure lycanthropy. A forest temple to Saha'annin, an altar to bend ones knee to, a cup to vow on, the blood and wine to mingle with. A celebration of a goodly god, with a godly ritual. It would be lightness and good.
I stumbled and sat down on the marshy ground. The ritual was reaching its end. What other knowledge had passed ahead of me as the turns of lightning, their meanings the rumblings of thunder. I am the child of shadows and loss. The frenetic blur of the tree of life blinding to me.
Something had been watching us from beyond the grove. It stepped out into the open. What had once been beautiful was now distracting. Every part beautiful but mis-proportioned. No part of her as a whole was in symmetry. Even her voice had that echo of misalignment.
She threatened us with promises of torture. While Alek promised to burn down her tree. Each threat and promise lead us ever closer to combat.
The hate pouring from them she was twisting to her purposes. The powers of creaton that were lying started to twitch. The spirits of the druids started to strengthen, her power growing with every vile word for or against her. Their bodies twisted to match the twisting of the spirits. Spikes burst from matted flesh, maggoty growth increased until they were great in size.
We had run, we had escaped into the forest. We plunged through the mist, Jan directing us out of the cloying green veil back into the twisted part of the forest.
We did not wait to see if they would follow instead we ran forward. There was a moment when dark shadows reached over us and I feared the great talons of the once spirit owl. Then the shadows were gone.
Eventually the false light of the decayed corpse of trees changed into the true light of the spring awoke forest. It would take the first light and hard travel until we were back in Loudwater.
We had the tools for one kind of solution to our affliction and those of our camp of refugees. However, many questions lay unanswered.
Would we ever see any quest answered to or would we slip into the reality of never finding a solution? I see no end, but the cruel taunting of the gods.
Perhaps the best solution is to refuse playing their game?
Edit: I received character descriptions which I ave woven into the story.
Days had passed since I had written in this ledger, since the events in the grove. Truth be told it felt more like months now. How sudden can the changes of thought make time stretch to infinity and back?
The hunger, the anger, the feral animalism, so alien to my mind is crawling behind my face. I want to use strength, to rip my enemies with my teeth, taste their pulsing blood in my mouth, their meat in my gullet. One side of me is disgusted with such displays of the curse of Malar. Of Lycanthropy. My other is filled with alien interest.
We had gone to the wilds of the forest with Jan in the lead, the druid of this now twisted forest. We met creatures, once forces of good now twisted into something else.
The grove was worse, the wantom destruction. The malforming of the wholesome into the unwholesome. I have seen the will behind such creations. I have a name for it as well. Master Jaeger Treach.
Unlike Master Jaeger Treach, this was for more of an alien purpose. The torture, the defilement was not for pleasure, but for a greater, unfathomable machination.
We conducted the purification ritual. That which was twisted was allowed to be untwisted - for a while at least. A tree spirit, the last guardian of the grove was made aware of our presence. The knowledge of the grove was stirred for a period of time, and we received the knowledge of the ritual of ridding us of lycanthropy.
An emissary of the force behind the twistage approaced us. It threatened us, promised us and then the puppetmaster stretched its hand to us. The grove became animalistic, wrong. The forest guardians turning into monsters reflecting the new power exerted over this forest.
We escaped, we ran as we listened to the once forest nymph rattle her wooden teeth in her asymmetrical face. We escaped the blackened forest to the lighter welcoming town of Loudwater.
The warmth of spring seeks to switch my face as the yawning window to the elements is open. Gone is the biting wind of winter. Instead a light patter of clouded rain-spray is lightly dripping down the mantle. I prefer to cover myself in the shadows of the room. I am a maggot, emulating movement in this dead carcass of my life.
The fellowship which existed between us as the Greyvale Guardians has dissolved. Io left this morning to fulfil a deeper meaning further away from Loudwater. Ka'an has been given an open inviation to study with deep forest elves in the North. To bend her knee to some sylvan god, whose name escapes me.
Sari has become obsessed with the artefact which we have found. She has become a follower of the dead goddess Mystra. Unbalanced and fanatical is what I would call it. An artefact which for so long has been lost, I fear it has become twisted like the spirit guardians. Feeding on the power leaked into it while tantalising others like Sari with untold, untapped power.
Who am I to know? I can barely write my name in common? And yet with the language of Shadovar my thoughts flow unaided, with careful cultured coaxing of my other into the curled cuneiformed symbols, I scrawl onto this page.
All I know now is that she is no longer Sari, but Sariella cleric of Mystra.
Alek is the last person of this band to perhaps adventure more. He has been drinking heavily though. Just last night he came knocking on my door. He stank of wine, sweat, vomit and possibly woman. He had been thrown out of the tavern again. He was drunk to where he could but lie in the gutter and slur words at me.
Such a sight we made as he drank from a bottle he had liberated from my recently woken landlord. She cursed my name as I sought to lead him away from the fight he was hungering for. There was no way I could carry this giant of a man up the rickety staircase to my room. Instead, I half dragged, half carried him to the barracks of Loudwater's militia.
The officer of the watch helped me lower him into a cot, from which he burbled like a child followed by the snoring of the heavily drunk man. He muttered the name of the serving woman from the inn as he smiled at himself, the empty bottle clutched tightly.
Walking home in the star-studded night made me feel in my second skin. The whistling of the wind across the battlements, the light patter of mist from the encrouchment of dawn. And yet I felt angry, I felt remorse. I felt like I had an opportunity for something which I had squandered. And yet, I do not know how to describe a yearning, the hunger of being close to someone - over the gulf of nothingness across which yawned my torn black soul.
The ritual against lycanthropy which we extracted from the grove nears completion. We have collected wolfsbane from the forest, the smith creating a silver chalice for the express purpose of holding the ritual material. A cask filled with alchemical unguents has been readied.
A notable traveler among the few merchants and adventurers drifting in has arrived. The priestess of Sahani, the presider of the ritual arrived into town this morning. Already around her children have flocked.
She is exceptionally tall, standing at twice my height easily. Eladrin, the progenitors of the elves, fey touched, from the immortal court. Wrapped in a white wool cloak, velveted with a pearled linen dress with intricately weaved images of Sahane, Selune and the moon. She had this otherworldly beauty to herself.
I, in my ratty, midnight ink oiled clothes was the cheap earthly replica of her casually turned out on a potter's wheel. Her holiness and splendor of light hurt my eyes, it made my skin crawl.
I saw her for a short time as she passed me by. My attention focused on the gestures the captain of the militia of Loudwater, who beckoned me over. He was searching for Alek and wondered if I had seen him.
I had not seen him from last night, but I already knew where to find him at this time of late morning. I believe the captain already knew where to find him, but I do wonder why he called me. Perhaps he wished not to deal with the shame of seeing a hero in such a besotten state. Suffice it to say, I met Alek and I experienced his angry drunkenness.
Alex gripped me by the front of my tunic in the middle of the Green Tankard Inn. His breath hot against my face. His armour reddening from the hate. Arm raised for strike. The fight from last night not subdued, just postponed.
I stood waiting for the strike. I did not flinch. I stood to look him in the eyes. I am not afraid of the strike of a man. That had long been beaten out of me.
The strike never landed. Our fight was interrupted by a singular half-elf. With sound reasoning and gilded tongue he stopped the fight and for once Alec heard the wisdom of a different way.
His name is Sha and he brought him back to the table, talked him out of his wine-skein, let me pour blackened tea down his throat. I was grateful to Sha. When he asked me about what I wished. I was silent. I do not remember what convenient lie I told him. For how do you describe the filling of the darkness that wells from my being? How could he grant a child's dream?
I do not know who Sha is more deeply than a merchant and minstrel. But I trust him greatly. For Alek's sake I asked Sha to join us. He said yes.
At the shrine of Sylvanus we kept our heads down in mock prayer. There was the eladrin priestess of Sahane, there was Jan the druid, there was Brother Gryffon - the keeper of the shrine. There was Alek, Sha and I. There were also two new faces among our midst.
We met another druid Dudenal and his ranger companion Gev. Dudenal is a human druid with a piggish attitude. Wild and unkept he behaves in some ways like a pig raised in the forest. The way he ate, the way his eyes roved across the room. The way he looked at me.
Gev was behind him. His half-orc shadow. He did not speak, but I kew that where Dudenal was the oaf, Gev was the terror. He wore skins, that covered scars. Over these a wicked spiked chain was wound. It moved with him without even a sound. I have seen his kind before. Not half-orcish, the look in his eyes of calm determination connected to no fear of violence.
Shortly after meeting the two new people. Already I could see their strands of fate threading inside of ours. They would become part of our band.
The stars like pinpricks of the needle would show our way.
Jan explained that the two companions had been called here to explore and seek resolution with the problems of the unhallowed nature creeping through the forest turning it into the fevered imaginings of some alien creature.
Shortly after the introduction Sariela, walked into the shrine. She had truly changed. There was the certainty, there was the power, there was the hint of the madness. Fanatic. Cleric.
She believed that the power of the artefact could be commanded
to solve the problems. She was eager in tapping into the power, to forge it to her will. All problems including our lycanthropy could be resolved. All problems with the forest could be resolved. All problems could be resolved with the artefact. All problems.
It was evening when we were asked to come Lady Moonfire's manor. The richly oiled oak walls, the pleasant aroma of mulled wine, the peaty smell of a hearth with a reddish fire leaping shadows across the walls. I who stood in the shadows and felt at home, letting the flow and ebb of the conversation wash over me.
Lady Moonfire was a graceful hostess, she wore white with silver jewellery with the signs of the moon and the stars. She was always disarming with her politicking. Her smiles were quick, her delicate reproaches made sure Alek was not too drunk for this evening. She asked many questions from the minstrel-merchant Sha, the druid-elf Dudanele, from the ranger-half-orc Gev.
Mystrel, the eladrin cleric of Sahani was present. She smiled at everyone and stood by Jan's side most of the evening. She paid little attention to me, which is just as well. All which is light made me feel discomfort, and her goddess shed light into the darkness.
Before the light of dawn, we had assembled ourselves at the gates of Loudwater. Our band of four were with us. In addition, we had Mystral, Brother Gryffon and Jan Hardeck with us.
We also had collected money to buy provisions for the people of that formed the refugees from Llorkh. An ox hitched wagon driven by brother Gryffon with Mystrel sitting at his side started the long journey to the refugee camp.
The day was wet. The path had slowly unfrozen to create a mixure of hard packed earth followed by spongy clay. Many times we had to all push the wagon from the ruts, while the strongest heaved with the ox.
We were met by cheering children who thronged the cart. The stern eye of the disapproving elderly peered at us from the flaps of the tents.
The five heads, the elders of the camp came to meet us. They talked wit Alek, eyeing the eladrin cleric and the druid with obvious distaste and fear. They finally agreed to let us into the village, they muttered about our promises to free them from lycanthropy.
They seemed to be confused by our promise of release, and yet I knew that they were happy, for responsibility was being lifted even if for a mere moment. Tomorrow at the eve of the full moon Mystrel will complete the ritual. My hands itch from the beast in me.
The past night I was in my undershirt trying not to pay attention to the rhythmic breathing of the priestess Mystrel as she lay in the second cot of the cabin.
We had heard from Dudanel of something watching us that dusk from the trees. An unknown malevolent presence. I had felt it before, deeper in the forest, when we had come to the grove.
I had the leather wrap open. Across the face of it lay the dark black circle of Shar. The objects on it were a silver knife blood flecked. A blackened wooden chalice with the pungent odour of blood and herbs. With quietude I prayed to Selune's opposite - to Shar. When the Toreil was devoid of darkness, she brought the shadows. When man was fat with immortality she brought leanness and death. When I was a child she brought me to Master Jaeger Treach. She taught me the evil of man can wilt the bloom of womanhood. She seeded me with the roots of hate and vengeance. The still born.
I poured out my prayer into the shadows, for them to whisper their secrets barely out of my hearing. I smelled the darkness of crushed earth, saw it crawl past the haze of perception, tasted it's nightshade bloom, I felt the withering glide across my skin. It touched my hair.
The moment of prayer passed over me. The silence of the cabin was still. I picked up the silver knife for there was not the sound of a sleeping Mystrel. Taste, touch, smell are but some of the senses to feel for an enemy. Mystral stopped pretending, she turned over to look me in the face.
It was a long stare, it was a long sight. It saw through the mortal flesh of my being. It looked into the cellar of my mind, it saw the well that held there. It looked into the inky blackness of the deeper pool lying there-in. I let her see the stones of my suffering, I let her see blood-begotten mortar that held me. She found the oubliette of my childhood.
We stared like that until my eyes watered. Some words were shared, the hardest was that of the thanks of understanding. Then she closed her eyes and rested in bed. I stood there with my knife ready. I gathered my things and drifted to a black slumber.
My nightmare was that of being chased and the chasee. I was a child of five wearing all white, holding onto the mane of a unicorn. I was a plateclad adult, spear in hand, riding a black flaming nightmare. Innocence and sadism.
I cornered myself in a grove, the ground and earth twisting under my feet. I looked at my callous, sallow face as the spear was hefted, thrown to my heart. My body exploding with the red of fresh roses.
I stood in line for the ritual. During the morning we had gathered some of the leaders of this camp together and explained the reasons behind it. Without Sha's nimble wordsmithing, I doubt we would have reached the chance of all of the lycanthropically afflicted to be shepherded into the centre of the ritual. I who was ignored. I chose to do nothing.
First was Alek with his blood spilling into the silver chalice. Then was he followed by the five elders of the camp. I who had been scorned by them was last. I who once would have considered them my kinsmen now I scorn them. Finally after what felt like hours I stood in front of the chalice.
Sha had been careful in his clerical duties, notarising every name as it passed the cup. He asked me my name. I said Jenn as he asked me for a family name. I told him Jenn. This brought both eyebrows up to his hairline as he tried to puff on the stylus in his hand.
I could not remember my family name nor my full name for that matter. I am sure it was writen in some burnt piece of parchment in Llorkh or a dusty court record in Waterdeep. Like so many things it had been stamped under.
The ritual continued as I gave the last drop needed to the chalice. I wiped the blood that had fallen on the table with a clean handkerchief. I do not know what I will do with it, but I am sure of use it will be of use at some point. Salvation or damnation.
I stood by the priestess, by Alek and Sha as the ritual began to reach a turning point. A smell started to pervade the air of something rotting. Some of the crowd shied away as the chalice began to bubble and froth.
What came forth from the chalice could only be descibed as an abomination. It may have once been a wolf, but now its flesh was patched with mangled corpses. Fur hung in grizzly tatters from a skull lined with razor sharp teeth. When it bit savagely Mystrel we all understod that this was no part of the ritual, but something more foul.
It took what felt like minutes or hours as we hacked and slashed at the beast. I had my silver knife out and had slashed it across its haunches. It howled with pain as we stabbed into its butchered flesh. It rent and bit with tainted claws and teeth.
Alek dealt the most damage. Dudanelle with his animal companions dealt the telling blow. It's throat open it turned back into a man. Barsch.
I screamed and stuck at him as the last breath exhaled itself from his body. I was the on who slid my knife inside to grasp his heart. I was the one who hacked at his head. Alek was the one who stood over him and rained blow after blow on his corpse until it became protrusions of flesh in the soaked, trampled ground.
Mystrel after some healing magic had been cast on her, stood over the mangled corpse and pronunces that he should be severed from this plane. Or else he will come back twice as horrific from whatever dark and twisted place he had originally come from.
The ritual complete, the body burned sweet as the ritual of removal of lycanthropy continued. The feeling of animalism that once animated my body left me. The stiffness in Alek's shoulders relaxed.
The refugees from Llorkh are finally free from the taint of lycanthropy, free from the taint of Barsch.
In the glaring and harsh light of a spring noon, we told them of the good news, of the agreement we had with the new rulers of Llorkh that if so they wish they could now return to Llorkh, to be under the rule of a group who do not bend to tyranny. Grave warnings were given to them of the harshness of not obeying by the laws of the new masters in that town.
Somehow the fear that all would not be roses, was more certainty in my eyes. They spat on me. They jeered me when I stood in front of Barsch. I did not hate them, but I would not aid them in their future. Lonely I am, and yet do I spit in the hand of any who would help me?
A festival of sorts happened that night. Fathers and mothers united with children not under the fear of the moon, but under its light. I nodded to Mystrel and headed into shadowed forest to pretend to stand guard over that which was watching us. For as Dudanele had mentioned the night before, the roving eye of some malignant thought was peering at us from the tree line.
The next morning under the pressure of the druid and his half-orc ranger companion, we did not head directly to Loudwater, but instead passed through the forest. Mine and Alek's words drowned out under the certainty of the fears of city dwellers compared with the powers of the forest walkers.
The oppression of the forest grew from the first hour under the twined canopy of roots and branches. The mulch of leaves was thick. The undergrowth was brittle and dead. Strange yellow triangled leaves rippled through the undergrowth.
Soon the light of the sun was blotted out by a darkness. Heavier, thicker trees of the coniferous kind stood in mute formations to our left. I could hear a whisper, the thread of a song. Ancient, eldritch it clung to me. It called to me. It invoked ancient ensorcelments on my body. How can you stand a bloodsong of me and my other?
I walked into the darkness. The void of light caressed and delighted my other. I could perceive that the rest of the band were following me, soon they were not following me but the beat of the drum was driving me forward.
The siren song relented on my mind only once we passed through the forest into the fields south of the river Dembiya. We looked at each other, the sigh of relief on our lips as we walked closer to Loudwater.
Alek was civil to me on the road for the first time in ages. Some of the tension had been lost, but the anger was there, deeper, smoldering. How I desire to feel his fire, and yet I fear it's warmth.
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