Last Stand of the 5th Crusade

Riva: The Wanderer

The_Wanderer.jpg

The Wanderer collects what others discard.
As he walks among worlds with eyes truly seeing,
This centaur can spot things that others regard
As junk or as trash, for they miss their true meaning.
One who sees hidden worth may be blessed by this card,
So roam on, Oh wanderer! And good luck in your seeking!
Yet a misaligned Wanderer signifies the loss
Of one’s values or of fortune your path may have crossed.

The Wanderer. Such a relief to draw that card last night, despite drawing it inverted. Like waiting at the crossroads for an unknown stranger, then finding upon meeting that he’s an old friend. Mama always loved this card turning up in her readings. Its message of knowledge hidden in plain sight holds a special place in the heart of any harrower.

I remember her teaching me this card’s song. It was winter. It must have been right after my twelfth birthday, because I’d had my own deck for a year about then. Ivan was in bed already, and dad was up on the roof making an observation, I think. That left Mama and me, bundled up and sitting by the fire. She was telling me stories about the deck. No, stories isn’t the right word. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but she was passing on the spirit of the Harrow, as mother had passed it to daughter for countless centuries before. That was one of the most perfect moments of my life, a moment of so much love and hope and family. That last year was perfect in so many ways, right up to that day in the park.

She was teaching me about the origins of the Harrow. Scholars say it’s some 10,000 years old, created in old Thassilon. But Mama said that anyone with “eyes truly seeing” can spot the handwriting of its creators, and that this card’s zeal for travel, the blessing that it conveys to those who wander, is a sure sign of its creation by the sages of the ancient Varisian caravans, roaming the unspoilt homeland back in the days and nights when Desna walked among them. She probably shouldn’t have told me that. Mama was always looking for small rebellions!

And to be free of that thing calling itself Aunt Livia, twisting my every thought! Can it be true? My father had an illegitimate sister? I know enough of Taldane to realize that Nothus is a surname given to bastards, and from the small and bitter bits that Dad spoke of my grandfather I would believe it. I need to keep myself together. I can’t let myself be controlled by these ghosts.

Yet now, with the Wanderer’s pure good card, Galea Vahnwyn is with me. I felt her presence all day today, and after yesterday’s horrors it was such a comfort. I could feel her powers flowing through me. During the battle, I could see the lives of the people around me, just knowing at a glance how wounded they were. And when I healed them, I could feel that warm surge of positive energy more strongly than ever before. The power of these spirits is growing, no doubt. For good or for ill.

Still, I can’t forget that I drew the card inverted. “A misaligned Wanderer signifies the loss / Of one’s values.” A rebuke for yesterday — oh gods yesterday, forgive me. I slit the throats of defenseless captives. I can say that this Aunt Livia made me do it, but no, that’s not true. She may have been whispering in my ear, but they are my hands soaked in blood. I will never forget it. I never should. The first one was so quick. He was unconscious. I wasn’t prepared for how much blood there would be, how it would rhythmically gush from his neck. The second one opened his eyes. He spoke to me, but I was so focused on the task at hand that I didn’t even see what he was saying. I just remember his eyes, desperate and pleading. I wish I could say that one was harder, but that voice, it was like it was part of me. But it was still my hand and my will that flicked the knife. I am so sorry.

A demon, a succubus, possessed me today. Compelled me to strike down my companions. It was horrid to feel her presence, all seduction and command, controlling me. But in some ways a relief. How many times have I felt these foreign things in my mind, not knowing what was me and what was them? Bearing the full guilt of the actions they compelled, like the stains from the blood of those guards. Here I just watched. It was a horror to watch, but for once it was not me. I fought her, but she was stronger, and so I simply watched, knowing that whatever happened, it was not my actions. After all this — a relief.

I need to be stronger. Against the demons, true, but most of all against the spirits. I now know they are tied to the deck. I need to be ready for them, come what may. So far I’ve seen:

Galea Vahnwyn, my old friend who got me through so many times at the hospital, a healer of mind and body. She is from the old country. Sometimes she speaks to me of Desna. Mama would approve.

That thing called Livia Pulcheria Nothus. Cunning and evil and legalistic. Aunt or not, I have no doubt that she ties to my Chelaxian heritage. I could feel spell powers utterly unfamiliar, but I dared not use them.

When I drew the Crows, something else. An evil presence. The chill of death. The spirits weren’t strong enough to reach me then, but I dread its return. Something about it was familiar.

“The loss of one’s values.” I need help. I need to share this with Ivan. He’ll understand. I should share it with the others as well. They’ve come to depend on me. We’ve come to depend on each other. I need to trust them with this.

I need to start telling them my story.

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The Defense of Defender's Heart
Kyrk's Journal 6

The appearance of traitorous Faxon. Then, his humiliation as Minagho appears with a squad of charmed crusaders and mercenaries. An epic battle between us an all the underlings with civilian casualties and the death, sadly, of the brave Lokura. Then another conflict as Minagho, herself, entered the fray! And, finally, the intervention of the demon lord Baphomet which saved us from certain death at the claws of Minagho! I can still feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins and the arcane energies of Nethys pulsing throughout my very soul.

And, at last, do I feel like I rose to the necessity of the moment on the battlefield. The fight was terrifying at times, and yet I kept my composure, selected the spells and scrolls most likely to be effective at the moment (save my poor, practically useless Aqueous Orb — who knew those blasted creatures could safely Airwalk out of the way?!), and never once lost my focus on aiding my allies. I wish I could have saved some of the townsfolk who bravely resisted the invading demons, but, sadly, I had to prioritize offense over defense — action vs. reaction. I lost track of how much arcane energy I expended or consumed — 20 spells? 25? It will take days to replenish my inventory. But such a glorious feeling! This is what I was meant to do, and I am thankful for the lessons I absorbed and put to good use, and thankful that my allies could protect me in the process.

And what a difference a day made in terms of Riva! She was like a different person today — generous with her healing magic and much more social. I did have a somewhat tense conversation with her about the things which seem to plague her. I hope I didn’t greatly offend her when I told her straight out that her “affliction” meant I would have to be on alert for the presence or influence of demons. It did seem to bother her, but it had to be said, and I’m glad I did. I hope her will will be strong enough to resist that which visits her each day, apparently. And, for all our sakes, I hope she is stronger in the future when confronted by a threat like that succubus! Riva could have killed Barca, or any of us, if we hadn’t taken such aggressive action to put her down. She is a fearsome archer, as the lingering discomfort in my torso from her arrow can attest. Thankfully, I had Shocking Grasp and the oversize grasp of Barca to neutralize her in the moment. I hope that I will be able to resist any such threat, as I shudder to think how I could harm my friends if I had been affected like Riva.

Both Barca and Locke continue to amaze me with their martial prowess. I hope Riva and I can continue to keep them safe and multiply their effectiveness in battle.

What an experience it was to hear the peals of thunder and see the skies darken as Baphomet made his presence known. For the Heroes of Kenebres to have destroyed the broken wardstone in time for it to enrage Baphomet and punish Minagho for it, was truly a miraculous occurrence. It appears as though her powers have been greatly reduced, and that an expedition to finish her off before they return, is the best course of action to take according to the Riftwardens and town elders.

We have not yet been told how we will travel or how long the journey to her stronghold, but with the wardstone down, I am sure it will be perilous. We have eight days to prepare, and I plan to use each one searching for new spells to add to my spell book and scribing a spell a day. I am hoping to find, at a minimum, Fly and See Invisibility. I don’t have much gold, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one of our allies from the Defender’s Heart battle (there was an arcane caster there, though I haven’t gotten his name yet) will be willing to share spell books so that I don’t have to buy them outright. Failing that, perhaps Irabeth will be able to direct me to a seller of magic.

And if I can find nothing new, I will work with what I have and get both Riva and I ready for the journey and foes we face in but over a week’s time. Hopefully, I will find a quiet place to think and scribe. And no more demons, please, while I work — hah!

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Riva: The Rakshasa

The_Rakshasa.jpg

The Rakshasa brings dominance and the mind’s control,
While sitting serenely on the back of a slave.
Though seemingly civilized he binds up the soul
And bends it and breaks it to his will and his way.
This card may be literal, though it reminds us the toll
Of mental enslavement to a force or idea.
When slave’s above master the meaning’s reversed
And new information can help cast off this curse.

When I drew the Rakshasa last midnight I did not share it with others. There is too much terrible meaning here. I feel the grip of this thing grow tighter around my mind, and as cracks form under its pressure the spirits slip in. I can wonder how they. I stared north last night I saw. It was cloudy, smokey, nothing was there but it was there. Keeya was there, I was glad she was there with. I told her about what I had seen what I had done and wept for those killed, I can understand Ivan’s fear but we need to fight on. It is hard. Keeya was there, I was glad. She —

Those idiots and their pathetic gods and codes. How I grow to loathe them. Ah the Rakshasa. Yes, the cards speak truth.

We were on the verge of accomplishing our mission. We had in hand a thorough ledger of corruption in Kenabres — precisely our goal when we arrived, not two weeks ago, for which we had traveled so far! And it was easy. It truly makes me doubt the competence of our overseers, struggling so long against these corrupting influences, when we could seize these records after such a short time. My companions were not useful in darkness, but they do not possess my strengths. My bow did much to finish off the Blackfire sorcerer and force surrender of the tiefling witch that calls itself Faxon. And upon surrender he made a foolish bargain for life that by its very words was trivially voided. These pitborn beasts should know better: the rule of the contract runs through their blood. But that fool!

Alas there was a fool greater. Locke, who has enslaved himself to these paladin precepts. There is the real meaning of the card! He extended every pitiful measure of leniency to that creature. I should have killed the tiefling right there. I could have. But I made the mistake of asking my other companions their choice, assuming that they would be receptive to reason and logic. Lokura listened. He is a good soldier. Barca held the tiefling fast. He too is useful.

Oh but Kyrk. Kyrk, who had the benefit of a Promise education. Who is ostensibly the intelligent one. He is a coward. He begged for that pact when he was blind, and yet when his vision was restored he was blinder still. The Templar tiefling categorically did not tell us all he knew — on the contrary, he was extraordinarily unhelpful for one with its life on the line! A clear breach. Moreover, freeing him renders much of our gain here useless! How many traitors did he warn? How many escaped who might otherwise have been captured? How many will use that knowledge to set traps for those who would bring them to justice? Do we walk into a trap right now, at this inn?

Locke’s code and Kyrk’s cowardice could kill us all.

And then the matter of the captured guards and Blackfire Adept. The others would do nothing, though to let them live endangers far more lives than three, and three forfeit lives at that. They too knew of the secrets we carried. Of course Kyrk would strip them of all their meaningful possessions and set them out on a street of a demon plagued city! But to kill them? No, that would be oh, oh so wrong. I slit their throats. It was the right thing to do.

Dear fates. What have I done? I can’t do this any more. Ivan was right. This isn’t our fight and we don’t belong here.

Oh silence your wretched whimpering, child. You made a pact to come here and fight. You cannot go back.

Who —

Someone who cares about you very much. My given name is Livia Pulcheria Nothus — but I rightfully should have been called Livia Tallix. You can call me Aunt Livia.

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V. Purpose
Barca's journal 0.4

Together once again. It seems like weeks have passed since our original hodgepodge from Hermea has been all together; if only under better circumstances; one dead, one leaving, two traumatized…
I need to be strong for them, I have felt the physical advantage these powers inside me can have on these devils. I’m not exactly sure what is causing it, but my blood warms, I can feel an extra surge of energy when I put these outsiders down, and it adds some sense that I was meant to be here. I have one real friend in this world, but the harsh experiences we have endured together has begun to endear the others to me, and knowing I have this added strength, I will make it my duty to do my part in protecting them.

Auctus’ newfound confidence and station among the local resistance is a welcome, if surprising change. I never fully understood our purpose or mission here, but after recovering those documents and realizing the implications of their contents, it has lit a fire in me to know there are those in the city who facilitated this destruction. They are not safe.

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Kenebres regroups
Kyrk's Journal 5

It took all the mental fortitude I had not to beg my companions to give that damn Tiefling Templar anything he wanted in exchange for dismissing his Blindness spell! That was terrifying. I thought that damn Lokura was going to cut off his head — impetuous fool. Thankfully, the negotiations staggered to a reasonable close. We got the information we sought on the double-agents in Kenebres and all of us escaped with our lives. Even the Tiefling, but so be it. He failed to protect his information, so I suspect he will not soon be approaching his former leadership for protection or more work. Especially if it was the demon Minagho (sp?) that we THANKFULLY didn’t engage with (despite Locke’s instinctual response to try to save the humans being implanted with demon eggs!) on our way to the Tower. We have been told she is in the upper reaches of power and influence, so it would have been death or worse to have made any move against her. The point being, I doubt the Tiefling will want to face her wrath.

The Backfire Adept and the Tiefling did shut me down quite quickly, I hate to say. Finally, though, I have learned some new spells that could dramatically tilt the battlefield in our favor next time: Haste and Dispel Magic! Plus, now that I have had time to read Millorn’s spell book, there are more than a few spells that I expect to use quite frequently.

We’ve been in this city for so few days, and yet it seems a lifetime ago that I was in Hermea, smug in my supposed arcane knowledge and prowess. Bah! Have I learned more than one hard knock lesson to the contrary. I know SO LITTLE! But my power is growing, as is that of my comrades. I don’t trust Lokura’s judgment, and I hope he will find tasks that suit him more than accompanying us Hermeans. Locke, however, is growing on me. The sword he now wield is a marvel of adaptive magic! To switch to practically ANY weapon within seconds means he can fight a range, with reach, close-in, etc — with the same enchantments and no extra weight or bulk to carry around. Very special, and I hope he will let me study it when (or if) we ever have downtime in which I am not furiously scribing scrolls for the days and weeks ahead.

I feel better that there is still a nucleus of defenders within Kenebres who are already starting to regroup and plan for the rebuilding/securing of the city. I hope the information we provided is valuable in rooting out the corruption within the current ranks, and perhaps will shed more light on the methods the Templars use in general. That Tiefling certainly isn’t the last of them we will face, of that I am sure.

I worry greatly for Neleryn, though, and hope he will rejoin us soon, not just in body but in spirit. If he wallows in grief, he might never emerge from the depths of despair. Keeya has also been wounded psychologically — I hope I can provide comfort and support to her. We have such a challenging, for me at least, relationship. I want to be her friend first and foremost, but it’s hard not to give in to my more romantic proclivities. She’s never shown any interest in the latter, so I best keep those thoughts and feelings as submerged and non-intrusive as I can.

I worry about Riva. She seemed to take a dark turn in the past 24 hours. I know it’s more than just the stress of the general situation we face and her concern for Ivan. I fear she is battling emotional forces within her as well, perhaps, as outside energies. If the latter, I hope they are not demonic! I will reach out to her to see if there is anything I can do to help, so it’s possible that any intervention I attempt will just drive her away. I really don’t do well with personal relationships, do I?

Well, if I’m unable to provide emotional support to my friends and comrades, I hope that they will find solace in the arcane energies I will be nurturing and bringing to the fore for the benefit of all of us.

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Cohort Logs 19 Arodus 4713

Ivan

The past few days have weighed heavy on my heart. I continue to think what is my purpose and I am wracked with self doubt and worry. Auctus spoke with me a few times and has reminded me of my place, not my worth but my duty. He speaks with a newly discovered wisdom and purpose; his cocky nature and air of self importance vanish and replaced with focus and pride, or possibly my perception of his actions have changed in light of him truly finding his place in this crusade. For the first time, I am inspired by his actions and his knowledge. I want to people to view me with the same respect and admiration I am viewing him. I will do what he clearly said: Stand up and walk or fall and die, but make a choice, we have no time for weakness.

He is not a man of soothing words, but this is not a place for nurturing.

Keeya

Holding this quill is of no comfort this morning. I can clearly hear the screams of women, children and soldiers outside and the quiet nightmares of my friends in here. Riva is hearing voices and Kyrk is running from them. In addition, my powers are growing in frightful ways. I can now summon small creatures for a short time, and when I touch objects… they speak to me. I need guidance. I truly hope we can have a moment of peace. If anyone can hear my thoughts, or my prayers if that is truly a thing, please hear me now: help us.

Auctus

Kenabres is destroyed and thousands of people are dead or displaced. All of the knowledge at their fingertips and powerless to stop the tides of the abyssal horde from overrunning the city and threatening the boundaries of both Mendev and all of northern Avistan. In the rubble, among the bodies of both innocent and corrupt, I am witnesses the rise of duty and strength. Not just of arcane and divine might, but of loyal fortitude and the will to hope. In the past few days, I have seen destruction that will be the source of a hundred songs, but the worst was what remained of my companions. Kyrk, Neleryn, Keeya and Ivan are all broken. Their souls slammed against the hardest substance and they did not rebound intact.

Ivan is pulling himself together, he is listening to the words of my father flowing through my lips. He looks on to Riva and knows if he is not a beam of support, her strength to control the spirits will overtake her. Keeya can barely voice a thought, but her eyes speak of horrors I fear in my dreams. What she witnessed by the hands of the Babau is haunting her, as well as her panic and fear that night at the gate when poor Nelethiel fell. Neleryn is secretly packing his things, I believe he is leaving for a time; I do not blame him. And finally Kyrk, he has faced the worst of the torture and I have no idea if he recalls all of the experiences. I have read of men suppressing memories of trauma, only to see it slowly surface at the worst of times. I hear him speaking to figments of imagination. I hear him stuttering while fighting off sleep to study the arcane words he found in the underground. He is cracking and does not realize it. I believe everyone else would see this as clearly as I if they were not fighting their own, for lack of better words, demons.

I know of my purpose here. It is not simply the knowledge I can provide, although it surely is helpful, but I must be the anchor that binds everyone to this world, and in a strange irony, Barca and his rage will pull us together where it has historically tore people apart. Mn

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Barca's Journal 0.3
IV. Jailbreak

Finally, an opportunity to get back in the city with at least a small chance of not being immediately killed has presented itself, but I wish I wasn’t so anxious to get back in. I wish common sense would tell me to stay hidden and not look upon the horrors that have befallen Kenrabes, but my friends are inside, and they need us. Mother always believed dying in battle was a great honor to her god, but I can’t remember its name and have never worshipped. I do carry the greatclub of my people though – may the spirits of those who wielded it before me guide my hands and strike true, for our battle is against the greatest of evils, which must be beaten back into its hole.

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Kenabres in Chaos

Kenabres is in shambles. It has been overrun by the Abyssal horde that came pouring out when the ward stone fell. After waiting it out for sometime, we decided to go in undercover of the night, trying to draw as little attention to ourselves as possible.

Some sort of plague or disease seems to have accompanied the demons. Many of the survivors left in Kenabres are ill-affected by this quick spreading contagion. We came across some townfolk who were driven mad. I tried to save the woman from being strangled, but I couldn’t act fast enough. We heard the cries from inside… a baby. But the illness had already corrupted the infant. His disease might have spread to others. Was there really nothing I could do? I swore an oath to Iomedae to protect the innocent but alas, I could do nothing. I wasn’t able to save them.

We were eventually greeted by Auctus, a friend of Barca. He seems to be in close with the Riftwardens. I hope the wardens have a plan to shut the demons out, for all of our sakes.

We ventured to Gwerm Manor where we found Barca and Riva’s companions. It never is that easy though. By the skin of our nose and by the protection of Iomedae, we battled against the Babaus that waited for us. Where do we go from here? Iomedae guide us.

-Locke

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Settling the Mind
Kyrk's Journal 4

Like water coming off a hot boil, the bubbling chaos of my thoughts and emotions is starting to settle back to some sort of equilibrium. And what I’m left with tastes bitter.

Yes, I think the guards acted excessively against Neleryn, and I should have come to his defense. But not with magic. If we had all just dropped to our knees and complied with their “investigation” perhaps he’d have been burned, but his sister wouldn’t be dead, and I probably wouldn’t have been imprisoned, tortured, and isolated for three days. Of course, there’s less than no love for Tieflings in this city, and their racism might have resulted in a beating for me, but the tragedy would have been much less. Anevia had warned us, and me specifically, that casting magic in the city was a dangerous and foolish thing. And though I used non-damaging spells, to the guards, my action was hostile and possibly evidence of demonic presence. My Academy training served me well in using my spells but failed my entirely in DECIDING to use my spells.

Then again, if we hadn’t been thrown in jail, perhaps we would have been killed by the demon hordes during the invasion. Being in cells, we were of no danger and drew very little attention comparatively to those free outside. Twelve hours of listening to the Babau’s voice (aurally and in my mind) was excruciating, but then again, if I had been free, he probably would have just slain me outright or gotten me to kill myself or my friends like he and his companion did to the guards outside our cells. So, that’s something to be thankful for, at least.

I don’t ever want to be as impotent as I was in that cell, but I realize now that I have much to learn about using diplomacy or at least bluffing to defuse a dangerous situation. And thinking of the long-term, not just what’s right in front of my face or what’s getting my blood up, has got to be a skill I develop if I want to survive, protect my friends, and close the Worldwound.

True power is knowledge applied wisely, appropriately, and in a timely fashion, not just raw knowledge (or magic) itself. I must work towards that as I develop my arcane prowess.

I am eager to speak with Aravashnial, though! How can he better prepare us for our next steps? Does he have magic we can borrow or buy? And can he help us plan a true strategy, so we aren’t stupidly reactive ? I should say, so I AM not stupidly reactive.

I also must learn to rely on my companions as well. They learned much over the past few days, and I need to absorb the lessons they have to teach. It sounds like we have some new allies, and maybe that will make the difference.

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Riva: The Midwife

The_Midwife.jpg

The Midwife is a conduit to creation
Though she cannot create on her own.
She serves as the key for new life or information
To enter the world or be shown.
Her heart can see good in the worst situation
Or make the import of arrivals be known,
But if she’s turned down and up-turned is the boy
The new arrival will bring no joy.

He is back — dear fates, him, he who tormented me all those years, who whispered to those doctors that they should bore into my skull. I didn’t know at first. He didn’t present himself in vision like some of the others, but I could feel him there, that evil presence, crawling scorpion-like through my thoughts, quiet and calculating and cruel. "Yes, Riva, cut the hand off of that corpse. It will make good bait.” Aron rebuked me for that, justly. I felt sick once I realized what I had done. And yet that didn’t stop me from calling for the captured cultist to be killed by our mongrelman allies, twisting our pact to not harm them. I thought nothing of it at the time, but now ….

I have returned to the cards as part of my daily meditation. There is no denying their part in my heritage. I honor my training, true, but the Harrow is part of who I am.

So I drew the Midwife, she the symbol of birth amid loss. She was the first shard of hope I had seen amidst the wreckage of Kenabres. And with her I could feel someone who I hadn’t known for a few years, who had helped me through the wreckages past. Galea. How many times had she been there to heal my mind? Now, all I could feel was a desire to heal others, to help in some small way the people fleeing from that wounded city. There were too many.

The dreams have been visiting again. No writing, so far.

We waited throughout the day to return. I could hardly bear it, knowing that Ivan was out there. Helping those who passed the mill we took refuge in made the time pass, but in truth there was little we could do. I kept watching the Sun creep slowly across the southern sky until it hovered westward over the Worldwound, its color deepening to a vividly unnatural violet, silhouetting the smoke rising from Kenabres. Late afternoon we made our way to a break in the city’s outer wall and hid there until night. In the crevasse below horrid things crawled.

Nightfall came so slowly as the Sun fell below the acrid haze. Cries of the dying and damned resounded everywhere. I did all I could to breathe, though the air burnt my lungs. I pictured the stream through Bellows Park back home. I was thankful that Galea was with me.

We ventured out under cover of darkness. We avoided the demons but came across a troop of deranged and diseased soldiers. Locke refused to pass by, and I did not disagree with him, and yet …. One strangling to death a woman, perhaps his wife. So much death and horror here. Upstairs was a baby. Remembering the Midwife, I thought there may be a measure of redemption — but he too was diseased, eyes glowing red, skin peeling off. There was nothing we could do. The building reeked of infection, diseased blood pooling on the floor, spilled and splattered everywhere by combat with those shells of men. Barca got it the worst. I will watch him and do whatever I can to prevent this horrid fever from spreading.

We went to Gwerm Manor first. It was suspiciously intact, but no demons seemed to guard it. And thank fates, in the dungeon below was poor Ivan! Unconscious and badly beaten, arm broken and probably some ribs. But he is alive! Some guards were locked up as well, betrayed by their commander, Ulenik — just as Ivan had deduced, and yet for all his cunning he still was caught! Foolhardy as ever! I’ll yell at him later, once he’s in better health. Healing him then was beyond my abilities. We had no choice but to leave him with the guards, in the relative safety of the manor’s basement. Thank fates he is alive! I don’t know what I would do without him, especially now.

Next, to the prison, to try to rescue Keeya and the others. We passed through the shattered passages of the New Kenabres wall, full of the dead, to the South Gate jail. There we found Keeya and Neleryn and Nelethiel’s body. Keeya was terrified and weak, but I feel she will recover. Of Neleryn I am not so sure. His racist arrogance always set him in self-imposed isolation, with only his sister connecting him to the rest of us. Without her lifeline, I fear that he is lost to us.

Downstairs was the tiefling, the likely cause of it all. And in going down there to retrieve him, Trynna and Barca caught the attention of two demons — Babaus, I now realize in the clarity of hindsight, though at the time my mind was all but frozen. They almost killed us. I wonder how much truth was in the guard’s report. Much I suspect. The Midwife holds a tiefling, surrounded by blood and loss:

But if she’s turned down and up-turned is the boy,
The new arrival will bring no joy.

I started this day with hope from this reading, but now even that has gone bitter.

The others had lost their ability to see through this darkness, their potions expired, so I set out to the Librarium of the Broken Black Wing on my own. It was a relief to be alone and to wrap the shadows around me and walk through this place of demons, seeing but unseen. And it was a relief to find Auctus there, the last of our company unaccounted for, along with Riftwardens — powerful ones at that. Through invisibility and teleportation, they moved everyone to the Librarium.

It is there that I write this, beyond exhaustion. I feel the need to record what I have seen, and to push back sleep a bit longer. I should check on how Barca is doing.

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