Last Stand of the 5th Crusade

Death and Deals in the Dark
Barca's journal 0.6

Is it overconfidence?
Ego? Brashness?
If I keep overextending myself, the next time I go down I might not be brought back up…
Luckily this time, like too many times before, my comrades rallied and brought me back from the brink, but what happened next, I have no words for. The power and destruction emanating from that room frightened me, even moreso than finding that man with absolutely no skin left on his head, and yet, all of that pales in comparison to the fear I have for my friend. Riva, despite her small size, is incredibly strong, and has helped to give our hodgepodge of a group focus, but now…
I was in the room, but too in shock, too out of my depth to speak up…
I hope the added strength Riva seems to get from her newfound faith in Desna is more than just words.
I do not fully understand Gods, but I am beginning to understand Demons, and if their power is real, maybe the power of the Gods are real too.

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Riva: The Dance

The_Dance.jpg

The Dance is a framework, rich and elegant.
Like the universe itself one must follow its laws
Lest the construct collapse, for its order is delicate.
So know your place in the greater cause,
Be in perfect step, with the music resonant,
For to break from its rhythm is to risk great loss.
Misaligned, this pattern might be hypnotic,
An o’er stifling order that waxes despotic.

I can still feel a tingling sensation on my chest where Jerribeth placed her hand, just above my heart.

I don’t know what will come of me as a result of this wish, seemingly given away for almost nothing. I’m no fool. I know who Jerribeth is, and I watched her lie — almost certainly lie — so flawlessly that I could not sense even the slightest trace of falsehood. So her assurances that this truly miraculous wish comes without consequence seems deeply unlikely.

Still, she is clearly a very proud creature, and in that there are some hints at truths. When I first heard her honey-sweet voice in my mind, I said that I would not bother hiding my motives, for she could see my thoughts. To that she almost seemed indignant, quickly claiming that she would not stoop to such a thing. This may be true. More interestingly, when I asked about conditions attached to the wish, she said with obvious disdain that she would do nothing so crude as to track us or watch over us “like Minagho’s succubi.” Again, that flare of pride, and with it a hint of truth, I think.

I know that this may destroy me. I am at peace with that possibility. I’m glad Ivan was not there to stop me.

If it brings Cormonoth Wulmor back to the side of the Crusaders, it will have been worth it. He is far stronger than I am, certainly, and it would be such a symbolically powerful victory. If he is redeemed, it would light a path for all the corrupted in this city.

And to see the power of that wish, cast across time itself! Unweaving the work of the fates and spinning its skein into an entirely new pattern — I have no words to describe how humbling it was to witness such magic. (My, I sound like Kyrk.) Perhaps it was all a grand illusion, but I do not think that is so. Did it actually bring his wife and child back from death? If it’s true, and they really are his family and not some twisted likenesses? A part of me feels that too would make it worth it, to have undone such a cruel injustice of the gods.

I hope. I truly hope that it is so. I hope — I pray, Desna if you are listening, I pray! — that any curse from this does not fall on that poor man or his family. He has suffered enough. Please let him return to the path of good, the path he followed before that loss. Whatever cruel tricks that demon wishes to play — please, let them fall on me.

I wonder how long my time even is. I wrote yesterday that I can feel something is coming, and I did not mean that demon.

I was exhausted last night and fell asleep too early. Once again I found myself flying on ink-black wings over those featureless grey hills rolling off into the horizon. The sky was cloudless and starry, like it always is. I looked down, up, around me, panicking, looking anywhere but ahead, because I knew that when I looked forward I would see that I was again flying straight toward that bright blue star and then the writing would begin, each glyph branded into my my mind, like the thousand times before. But this time I felt a burst of warmth, the last thing I associate with that dreamplace. Startled, I looked forward. And there was a huge butterfly, some hundred feet in front of me, its violet wings dotted with as many stars as the night itself. It hovered there, directly ahead yet never getting closer, its wings flapping slowly and calmly, its body blocking the light from that star. I studied it, looking in wonder at the intricate patterns of its diaphanous wings, and then I realized: it was starting to fade away. A hint of that piercing blue pinpoint of light started to show from behind it, and I could hear those whispering voices emerging from the darkness.

And then I jerked awake, knowing that it was midnight. I pulled my blankets around me, shivering. A cold wind was picking up, blowing down from the Frostmere, the first hint of the next day’s fierce windstorm. That old routine of waking at midnight to meditate … it saved me from a symbol dream. This time, at least. Since Kenabres I’ve been feeling the presence that comes from the north circling me, drawing ever closer. It is coming for me again, and it is only a matter of time.

During my meditation I drew The Dance, inverted. That’s the second time I’ve drawn this card since leaving home. The first was immediately before the fall of Kenabres, when The Dance fell in the reading’s future-evil position, a perfect opposition, foretelling the collapse of that city’s order.

This time was a personal drawing, and I fear it means the collapse of the order in myself. For so long I’ve tried to control the forces inside me with meditation, trying to maintain a mental order and harmony. Katsuyama-san, thank you. Teaching me these methods saved my life. I will keep trying, but I’m not sure how much longer I can do this. Last night that order saved me from a symbol dream and fates know what changes it would work. I was lucky. Without your guidance I’m really struggling to find a way of dealing with the dreams, the spirits, and now these demons and perhaps even Desna herself. And what if I take some demon’s curse upon myself? If it saves another, I am willing to gamble what remains of me.

Prayer seems so awkward. My thoughts invade, questioning, mocking my efforts. Galea isn’t here to help; Falrin was with me today. I’ve sometimes heard him muttering prayers to Torag in his guttural dwarven tongue, not that that’s much of a help. He hasn’t spoken to me since Jerribeth’s wish. I’m not sure he’s even here anymore.

But I will keep trying that too.

Desna, please let Cormonoth Wulmor and his family be truly saved from evil. Please.

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Be Careful What You Wish For...
Kyrk's Journal 9

We chased the last Blackfire Adept into a summoning chamber, only to get a few second glimpse of him, through some sort of portal, backing away from a horrible humanoid sized figure whose flesh was entirely composed of worms and whose upraised hand was glowing with some sort of necromantic energy. The worm figure saw us, cried “Enough!” and with a a wave of his hand, the portal shimmered and turned to the stone of the walls around us.

After consulting with Sosiel and Atzemsira, we decided to return to our hideout and confer with our cohorts. The rest of our party probably could have gone immediately to find and kill Cormonoth Wulmor (the necromancer), but because most of my spells had been spent, the party decided that it made more sense to rest even if it meant that Wulmor might have better defenses in the morning. Ivan had gathered useful information on Wulmor which confirmed our inclination. Then, he and Auctus set to reading Minagho’s journal (that we found in the summoning chamber) as well as some of the other manuscripts and documents we had collected. The discovered that the name of the wormlike “abomination” (Minagho’s word) was Xanthir Vang. She clearly disliked the creature as well as a conniving Glabzeru named Jerribeth who was her second-in-command of the “Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth.” Vang had been appointed by Deskari who was trying to overshadow Baphomet in corrupting humanity. The journal also referenced some things called Nahydrian Crystals and Nahydrian Elixir which Jerribeth in some fashion had manipulated to achieve some sort of power ascension.

On the morning of the 16th, we decided to go after Wulmor. I prepared many more offensive spells than usual (four Magic Missles!) anticipating that we would be facing undead with various resistances to other types of melee and arcane damage. I decided to prep two Haste spells and one Fly rather than any Dispel Magic, gambling that I’d need to be mobile and that the necromancer wouldn’t be using spells that I’d need to dispel (over doing some other action).

The psychopomp did not accompany us, as she said Wulmor had the power to banish her from the Material Plane. We left all the cohorts behind save Keeya who we asked to come with us because of her healing abilities as well as her power to make Barca larger and more fearsome in battle. I had very mixed feelings about asking Keeya to risk her life for such a dangerous mission, but I suppose I shouldn’t since the stakes are so high, and ALL of us must risk death if we are to have a chance of prevailing in the long run over the forces of the Abyss.

Upon entering Wulmor’s lair, we were immediately beset upon by some undead — bloody skeletons of boars I believe. They did large amounts of damage but were not too difficult to put down, though I luckily remembered that in order to keep them from reanimating, Locke would need to channel positive energy in their presence.

For the first time since we left Promise, I asked Takk to scout ahead of us. He performed admirably, providing useful information on further undead we would encounter, though he did not save us from a pit trap that hurt three of us, myself included. Riva did absorb some of the poison from the barbs below, but she cast Delay Poison to stave off the effects for five hours. We will have to get her cured as soon as possible. Take was able to find two pressure plates for more traps and we avoided them successfully our entire time in the underground complex.

Next, we were attacked by four undead Babau who did as much or more damage from their deaths (when they exploded!) as they did with their attacks. We had almost no time to regroup when we were set upon by two undead Hill Giants. Barca almost died (a regular occurrence, unfortunately) in this encounter. He fell unconscious and would have been dispatched by the huge foe if not for Riva bravely standing astride his fallen body and provoking the giant into attacking her. This gave the rest of us enough time to dispatch him. Thankfully, my Magic Missile spells — and even lowly Acid Splash! — were able to contribute.

Finally, we made our way into a large chamber with tapestries of old Sarkoris with crude strategic battle maps painted on them. We could hear arguing voices behind a door at the far end of the chamber. I cast Invisibility and Fly on myself and, after Keeya quietly opened the door, I scouted ahead. Down a 20-foot hallway was another door, behind which the source of the sounds was coming. I could hear Minagho berating two people — Wulmor and Jerribeth (which I was able to discern only because of the information we had just gotten from Minagho’s journal). Minagho was furious, threatening to peel the flesh from Wulmor’s body with her claws and chastising Jerribeth for her insubordination. Jerribeth didn’t back down. In fact, she mellifluously directed Wulmor to attack Minagho! From another part of the room an undead Glabzeru set upon Minagho, and Jerribeth herself turned from her shapely Elven form to her true form of a Glabzeru. Wulmor seemed confident as well. Minagho left at him, and I used the distraction to return quietly to my comrades.

It was then that a stone door in the large tapestry room slid aside and a ghoulish troll emerged. We knew that fighting it would endanger us all, not just because Barca was so injured, but also because of the risk that Minagho and her two foes might hear our battle and cease their fight and investigate. We fled the chamber, and I used Web to seal in the troll.

Everyone made it over the pressure plate (though I had to help Keeya using my Fly spell) and over the barbed pit, but then we realized that perhaps we should go back to see the aftermath of the battle against Minagho. Perhaps the fearsome demon had been killed! We needed to know. Riva urged me to return and learn more, saying that we needed to know if Wulmor had survived and, if he had, perhaps we could use the opportunity to attack him in what must be a weekend state. I was most afraid of returning, expecting that Minagho would discover my presence and rip me to shreds. But Riva was right — we needed to know if an opportunity was presenting itself. What happened next, I could have never predicted.

I went back to the door outside the final chamber and saw the brutalized necromancy struggling to stay conscious and dragging himself to the altar of Baphomet to pray. Almost all the flesh on his face and head had been ripped off him, and his eyeballs had been popped by Minagho’s claws. It turned my stomach despite my knowing of Wulmor’s evil. No creature deserves to be tortured in my opinion. There was a corpse of the undead Glabzeru but no sign of Minagho nor Jerribeth.

The rest of our party joined me, and we decided that since Wulmor was so weak, we had a chance to capture him and convince him to return to the path of good and seek atonement in the eyes of Iomedae, his former deity. Barca lifted him off the floor, and though the blind necromancer did not come willingly, he was unable to provide any resistance.

It was at that moment that we noticed a scrying sensor on the wall behind the altar. We thought of fleeing, but Jerribeth appeared, back in the form of a beautiful Elven woman. We knew we could not fight her, so we tried to reason with her to let us leave with Wulmor since our ultimate aim was to destroy Minagho, something we knew Jerribeth wanted as well.

Jerribeth, instead, offered us the power to heal Wulmor through what we realized was her power to grant a mortal a Wish. Such extreme magic she has access to! I was immediately jealous, though I tried not to show it. Riva asked if there were conditions attached to this offer, but Jerribeth said no — only that she wanted us to prevail over Minagho and would even offer to provide us information in the future that might help us do so. I suspected treachery in the making and suggested to Riva that the Wish (IF we accepted it) be formulated along the lines of asking for Wulmor to have be set upon the path of pursuing redemption himself. But I was still hesitant. Riva did not seem so. Jerribeth turned to me and offered to make the Wish restore Nelethiel to life and to find Neleryn for us! I felt such a pang of remorse, especially because Jerribeth knew of my culpability in Nelethiel’s death.

Thankfully, I kept my composure and declined to accept the offer — I knew that making a deal such as this with a demon might eventually lead me down a dark path. But Riva seemed to think it would be so useful to turn Wulmor and achieve the destruction of the Templar infrastructure through that process, that she seemed oblivious to the danger of accepting such a bargain. I should have put up more of an argument, but I was exhausted and, to be honest, thought to myself that if this next step DID help us return Ralinscrad to friendly hands and give us a better chance to kill Minagho, that perhaps it was worth risking Riva’s soul. I know that is incredibly harsh, but I was trying to be both practical and ensure we all lived on to fight another day — perhaps with a short-term advantage to press. I told Riva I would be forced to scrutinize her more closely in the future for signs of corruption. She seemed to take that as a joke, but I was deadly serious.

The brutal truth is that all of us are expendable in the fight to seal the Worldwound. I will fight for the lives (and souls) of my friends, but if they are willing to accept additional risk that could help us turn the tide in our favor, I will continue to weigh those opportunities with the larger goal in mine. I hope that won’t lead to any or all of us losing ourselves to evil, and I will try to maintain the balance between ends and means.

So, Riva agreed, and Jerribeth conjured a vision of Wulmor’s family in the past when his wife and child died during the child’s birth. Jerribeth “rewound” time and unwound the umbilical cord that had strangled the child, showing a new past with both his beloved alive and urging him to rejoin his wife and child, now along the path of the Inheritor.

There has not been time yet to sense Wulmor’s reaction nor for our party to assess the magnitude of what has just happened. We are standing in front of Jerribeth and Riva has just experienced the effects of the Wish spell. I am by no means religious, despite by reverence for Nethys, but if I were a praying person, I would be doing it now in hopes of protecting Riva (and all of us) from any ill effects from this life-changing decision.

Gods know what what will happen next…

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Riva: The Trumpet

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The Trumpet declares the assertion of power,
The call of the battle, the clash of the sword!
The archon will charge where most men would cower
For just is his cause and right his reward.
But know that this card marks a decisive hour:
You can never go back after you charge forward.
A misaligned trumpet suggests motives ignoble
Or crumbling of strength rendering bravery immobile.

In Raliscrad I made a drawing for myself. In the past the Marriage, the card that symbolizes my past more than any other: the irrevocable bond between myself and whatever force has twisted me into what I am today. The present shows the Trumpet as we charge against Minagho: the call of the battle, the clash of the sword. The future, the Hidden Truth, as our search into this demonic corruption deepens.

The cards could not be clearer. Everything else is a fog of confusion and uncertainty — so much so that for the past four weeks I have been too overwhelmed to take up the pen. So much has happened, but I just couldn’t bring myself to record it.

When I came here I was not ready for the horror we would be facing. I thought that all I had been through in Promise had steeled me to mere external threats. It was arrogant to think that, I know. But in the beginning it was so easy — even enjoyable. The past forgotten, replaced by the freedom of being a stranger in a new place — how long I had wanted to be free from Promise. The present full of new experiences and adventure. The future? …

What a horrid future. Such unspeakable loss. And these experiences, they are changing us, irrevocably and often not for the better. “You can never go back after you charge forward.” Nelethiel dead. Nerelyn lost, mad with grief, possibly also killed in the charnel that is now Kenabres. Lokura dead, one of the many crusaders who died accompanying us into battle. Indeed most who accompany us die. Then there is Kyrk, who seems increasingly obsessed and acquisitive about magic and spells. Does he consider them a means or an end? This is a dangerous road.

Barca is Barca. For all his rage in battle, he seems to just take the world around him on whatever terms it comes. I envy that sometimes, the resilience of youth. His friend Auctus grows increasingly strange, lecturing on with the help of that fleshily tumorous thing that erupted from his chest. I try to treat him with kindness, for his knowledge is helpful, and he is earnestly committed to the cause. But by fates it is revolting!

Locke too remains steadfast in his ways, anchored by his faith, I suppose. If it weren’t for his immunities — Iomedae’s blessings, he says — Auctus would surely be dead. I still wonder at the rigidity of his code, but perhaps an unquestionable order is necessary for sanity in places like this.

Keeya remains quiet. I am very glad for her company at night. I haven’t been sleeping as much as I should, but I need time to meditate on the changes that I know are affecting me as well. Having Keeya there, just her quiet presence, helps. I can feel something is coming. When I do sleep it is calm for now, but I dread what dreams may come.

When I was paralyzed by the poison of the chuul, underwater, every muscle in my body seized from the pain…. In that moment of utter helplessness I welcomed death. And the spirit of death was inside me, a waiting, ravenous darkness. Then Galea was there. She held me close and whispered prayers. Hearing those prayers brought back to me the words of my mother, the old caravan song-prayers to Desna she used to sing. And in that moment I sang every one of them with all my heart. Galea sung them too. My fear was overtaken by a flood of relief, happiness even. The spirit of death was gone, replaced by warmth and love, like I was surrounded by family again. Then another was there: distant, more of a feeling than a voice. There was anger and confusion in her, but also a reaching out to me that offered protection. She seemed alone, wanting companionship. That is the last thing I remember.

As I recovered I watched in horror as Ivan succumbed to blindness. I spent a week by his side in those awful dank and reeking ruins of Storasta, may it be forever blasted from the earth. I prayed for him too, every bit as strong as I had prayed for myself. At night I faced north and I pleaded that his life be spared. It took everything we had to save him. He is well again, and I’m proud to see him grow stronger — his skills at subterfuge and imitation are truly astounding — but the more risks he takes, the more I worry about him. I know he’s worried about me too.

Now we try to retake Raliscrad with the aid of death’s handmaidens. When I first saw one of the cloaked psychopomps, I felt that temptation of death again, but this time I easily pushed it away. There’s no doubt that the experience in the river has made me stronger, in ways that I had never foreseen. Mama would appreciate the irony there. When the Vanth asked me whom I served, I first told him the crusades — true, in its way, but hardly the whole truth. The Vanth instantly dismissed that. So I said: Desna. I have meditated upon this every night since Storasta, but saying it aloud sent chills down my spine. So much of my life has been torn from me by these outside forces that I ask and ask and ask myself: how can I trust this? Was it a god that stole the hearing of a twelve-year-old girl? Tore her from her family and threw her in an asylum? Tormented her with years and years of nightmares, beating and twisting her into … into what? And for what purpose? So long I stared at the northern sky in fear, wondering when the next round of symbol dreams would come, how they would remake me, if I would even be me anymore. And now the fates conspire to deliver me into the hands of Desna, queen of the night sky, goddess of dreams, who rules from her throne at the North Star? Is that all a cruel coincidence? Are the fates mocking me? Are gods?

Mama, I know your devotion, and over the past weeks I have sometimes felt it in my own heart, but right now this faith is too much for me. I try to pray to Desna for guidance, but the words catch in my throat. I just want to know who I am again, and to be myself. Is that too much to ask?

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Aid From an Outsider
Locke's Journal

With Ivan’s help, we seemingly managed to sneak into town without drawing attention to ourselves. We found a building to sleep in but lucky for us there were plenty of beds. I suddenly awoke that night to a loud commotion. I quickly got up and ran to the aid of my allies. Two undead creatures were upon us but they were no match for the power of Iomedae. When the battle was over, I went to check the door. A mysterious voice spoke out to me, “Stay strong Crusader”. The voice felt so close, yet I could see no one.

The next day, Riva had a few chance encounters while roaming about town. Fortunately for us the first meeting was with an ally , Sosiel. Sosiel caught us up on the local happenings. Minagho has a necromancer ally with undead forces. How are we going to fight off the demons as well as an army of undead?

The second encounter, was with a PSYCHOPOMP. Pharasma’s servants maintain a presence here to combat the undead forces. After some risky diplomacy, Riva managed to gain the favor of their leader, Atzemsira, Atzemsira agreed to send her forces to battle the undead while we take on Minagho. Atzemsira lead us right to the doorstep of Minagho and we barged right in. It was a hard fought battle and many allies fell. I pray to Iomedae as well as Pharasma that their souls will find peace. We managed to defeat Minagho, but she teleported away before we could slay her.

Strange thing, among Minagho’s minions, there were Black Fire Adepts. What is really going on here?

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The One That Got Away!
Kyrk's Journal 8

First of all, I can’t believe I fell off a wall…

I guess it’s a reminder to stay humble no matter how many laws of nature I can bend or defy with my magic. Still, I felt humiliated after having such a bright idea to evade the magic dispelling field, only to find out that it was related to the entire room having been desecrated. Looks like Spider Climb will have to be used another day to better effect, much like my Aqueous Orb whose first use proved to be so useless (but today was a triumph of spell casting selection!).

I have to admit that when we first entered Minagho’s chamber, I was scared. There were SO many foes arrayed against us, with reached weapons, ranged weapons, and four or five spell casters (what is with these Blackfire Adepts and their interaction with followers of Baphomet? I had thought the two groups to be somewhat separate. We have much to learn). And once my Haste spell was nullified, I REALLY became scared. Without Barca’s melee prowess, each one of us had to be more effective than usual, and what if ALL my spells were going to be useless?

We suspected that Atzemsira would be powerful, but when we first entered the room, she began taking hit after hit, and I thought she might succumb just from the attacks of Minagho’s henchmen. Thankfully, she proved to be a tough-as-nails psychopomp (not that I’ve met many to compare) and was able to evade the attacks of the mooks and keep Minagho occupied for what proved to be an epic battle between them.

Meanwhile, I was able to cast Haste again (thankfully, I had anticipated that spells of mine were going to be dispelled and had prepped duplicates of various magics), and our party was able to wipe out all but one of the Adepts and most of the other antagonists. Aqueous Orb did a beautiful job sweeping them up and dispatching them or herding them out the door. I think we should pursue the ones that fled if possible, despite our injuries, to try to capture and interrogate at least the Adept.

It was so frustrating that Minagho was able to escape (damn that innate ability to teleport!) when we were seconds away from killing her. Yes, I know our mission was to drive her out of the city, and Atzemsira had no faith that we would actually be able to kill Minagho, but we were so close to doing so! With a bit more experience and research, I think I will be able to use arcane energy to prevent her, or other would-be-teleporters from fleeing future combats, but that will have to come another day. But so many of Sosiel’s companions were killed in the battle. I hate to think that their lives were lost in vain because we could not finish off Minagho.

I am also troubled that Riva was visited in the night by a demonic voice somewhere in the region. Perhaps this is a potential ally, but most likely it is some sort of trick designed to get us to drop our guard. I will have to be especially vigilant. What if Stirkash Reksha’avu’unur, the demon Keeya and I unwittingly and stupidly freed back in Promise, finds ME and tries to twist me to his well. Back then, I swore to myself that I would kill that blasted Glabrezu someday, but the more I see of the power that demons have, the less likely I am in that youthful (mere weeks ago!) and overconfident oath! It bothers me so much that they can toy with, torture, kill, or torment humanity with such ease.

We must accrue more power, and soon!

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Cohort Logs: 12 Rova 4713

Auctus

This trek through the Riftshadow has taken its toll on us. We are tired and dirty, but most of all, we are aware now fully aware of the dangers of this land. I can see now why the crusaders have made no progress pushing back the expanse of this region, content with only holding it at bay. I have thought in my mind that this evil surely could be pushed back by the combined might of Mendev, but now I see the battles they face. It is not only the demons, but the land itself that causes the greatest danger. I recall stories from my father of the jungles in the Mwangi and how the people learned to live with nature, simply because nature would not learn to live with such insignificant beings as man. The Abyss is the same. The demons are the insects germinate chaos in the hearts of man, a foul reality indeed, but it is the land the finally breaks a crusaders will to allow the chaos to take hold. The disease that infests the water and land, the poisons dripping from each demonic carrier and the unrelenting weather that beats out all hope with ash and nails. To overcome this threat, man truly needs heroes to rally behind that can give hope when all hope is lost.

I truly hope the Heroes of Kenabres can do what the Queen hopes. They left weeks ago to reclaim the dwarven citadel of Drezen, an impossible task. But if they can do it, if they can defeat the demons so deep in the Wounded Lands, I think we just might have a chance.

Ivan

Two weeks and we finally have reached civilization, at least I hope. Raliscrad stands before us on the other side of the river. There are small docks on each side with boats to ferry people across. The soldiers look loyal to the demonic hoard, and most likely Minagho. We will have to tread carefully from this point forward. Strength of arms will not see us through the next few days, but cunning and blending in will. This is finally my time to shine.
I will admit, I have felt impotent these past few weeks. Watching Auctus interacting with everyone, he really is brilliant. If his father is anything like him, I can understand why he holds a position on the Council of Enlightenment. Auctus knows so much about, well, everything. He knows of the land, the creatures, the history of objects, and beyond that, he can fight! He threw bombs that decimated these werewolf soldiers, granted he hurt that paladins too, but I can understand his strategy. Keeya also is becoming quite useful. Not only can she turn invisible… INVISIBLE, but she can increase or decrease anyone’s height. Amazing. She can see through fog and more importantly, she has learned to gleam information off items held by our enemies. This is very useful and I am already learning all she can tell me about the people we are to meet. I will soon become one of them and lead our group safely into the demon’s den.

Keeya

Kyrk is growing colder as we move deeper into this country. His time spent with me is diminishing with each new arcane discovery written in his books, although I cannot blame him. He is banished from his home land and the eyes of the few who could understand him still burn with blame of Neleryn and Nelethiel. Auctus is blind to all of this, as usual. His mind full of the minutia of the world he is missing what stands directly in front of him. Ivan suspects, but tells me to give Kyrk and the others time. I laughed at this, a boy of his age reminding me of time, but he is correct. Thankfully, I have much to occupy myself with, and the battle today gave me much insight on tomorrow’s events.

The suspected holy men hunted by the lycanthropes, one paladin and one thief dressed in holy armor. When I touched their items, each one gave me a picture and insight of what has transpired over the past few days. After going through their gear, I believe that both men were running for their lives escaping from holding cells, surrounded by hewn stone. I feel this must be underground since it was cold, wet and lit only by torches. There were many prisoners, dozens if not more. One cell was filled with hybrid werewolves, possibly recently turned, about a half dozen. The guards all wore symbols of Baphomet.

From the hunters, I viewed a singular man, a natural werewolf, but he wasn’t a man, he was different in some way: wider, stronger and pointed ears. I spoke with Auctus and he believes I am describing a bugbear, a sick and demented type of goblin. What could we possibly be walking into?

Arueshalae

Can you hear me? What are you? Human? I feel a multitude of souls surrounding a singular being, but I cannot make you out. Can you feel me in your dreams as I can feel you? Is it warm?

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Saved by "Stone" the Gargoyle?
Kyrk's Journal 7

We had spent the night resting in an abandoned structure near Riverkeep on the edge of the mostly ruined city of Storasta. My companions were wracked by disease and poison, and their low moans of discomfort and anxiety had threatened to ruin my sleep — luckily I had my earplugs and was able to get the sleep I needed to prepare my spells in the morning. I suppose that seems callous — cutting myself off from the agony of my friends — but if I have learned one thing since leaving Promise (and I have learned MANY things), it’s that empathy and human connection sometimes must take lower priority than the practicality of preparedness. Not being prepared, especially as we approach the Worldwound, could easily result in any of us dying…or worse. If I am to do anything to help this party, and our mission, I will need to take advantage of each and every moment I have of rest or quiet so as to marshal my arcane resources. Storasta is a creepy place, and a rain of fingernails on our second day there, did nothing to improve our mood, but I was able to scribe a scroll.

And hail to Glitterdust — that most wonderful and useful spell! For when two gargoyles poked their stony heads through the window of our hiding place, I was able to cast it quickly and blind both of them! After that, it was just a matter of seconds before our group was able to subdue one into unconsciousness and make the other flee. And I am so glad that I listened to the little voice in my head, if not necessarily of mercy, but of practicality that made me urge my fellow party members to spare the gargoyle’s life and attempt to parley with it. And stupid though he was, the gargoyle who called himself “Stone” proved to be as helpful, if not THE most helpful, creature we have encountered in our travels thus far. Riva did a masterful bit of diplomacy, combined with a taste of one of her trail rations, and soon Stone was giving us valuable information on the treeants and other dangerous denizens of the city. And even more importantly, he gave us 10 masterwork backpacks full of that which we most needed — antitoxins and antiplagues! I tried not to think about the the 10 crusaders who had lost their lives for us to benefit from their possessions, but without those supplies, we would not have been able to heal our diseased and poisoned. And without that healing, at least one or more of us would have died, of that I am sure.

Stone’s information allowed us to skirt the city in the safest way possible, avoiding monsters living and dead, as well as conserving our resources and saving us time getting to our eventual rendezvous point. By casting Levitate on Barca and Fly on myself, we were able to get our entire party safely across the river avoiding any danger. It was most satisfying to use my magic in such a fashion.

We were able to get to a long ridge and traveled for days, hunkering down through ash storms, 70 miles per hour winds, and thick oily fog. Thankfully, Keeya could see through the fog and keep us safe and aware of any threats. We even fought mist drakes on the 8th day of Rova, but performed well as a fighting unit and triumphed over them. By the 12th day, we had reached the edges of Ralinskrad, just across the river from it. It was there that we encountered 2 crusaders (paladins) fleeing from 4 lycanthropic worshippers of Baphomet. We were able to kill or chase off the lycanthropes, and managed to capture one in the process as well as save one of the paladins. Both are unconscious now, and it’s clear that the paladin has been infected with lycanthropy. We don’t know if we will be able to save him, but we hope to do what we can for him and question our prisoner before entering the city where Minagho resides. Perhaps those with whom we are too meet before going into the city, will have resources to help the paladin.

All of us must be strong for the next phase of our mission — however weakened Minagho may be, she is still a mighty demon and a great threat. I hope I and my companions are able to defeat her without casualties on our part.

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Cohort Log: 31 Arodus 4713

Auctus

The sun is setting and Keeya is preparing a scouting trip to find more suitable accommodations. The ceiling is low in this basement, only 5 feet due to all the dirt carried in by past floods: wet dirt. I am severely weakened by the poison coursing through my veins, as well as something worse. Ivan believes me to be afflicted with demon plague. If that is the case, soon I will become contagious and threaten the lives of everyone here. For the fate of us all, it might be best if I am left here during the incubation of this aflliction to see if I am able to fight it off. Locke surely will be able to give me care. I will not risk the lives of everyone here.

Even with my state, Riva is in the worst shape. She is severely poisoned and cannot move. Ivan is feeding her by placing small droplets into her mouth and massaging her throat. He is complaining of burning in his eyes and that even in the brightest light we can muster that the room is getting dark. The Blinding Sickness is taking hold, I am certain. Locke said that Riva also shares this fate. Barca is also poisoned, but not as bad. I am without fear that he will recover in a few days. We need rest, if only a few days to recover. If we planned correctly, we will all walk out of here alive.

Ivan

My eyes, they burn so much! My vision is getting weaker, but I must stay strong. Riva is in such pain, I fear for her. I can not truly tell if she is asleep or not, or what she could possibly be trying to convey. She is completely paralyzed, unable to drink, eat or even whisper. I can see her eyes respond a bit, but they are sick. A cloud is moving over them and her sight is fading as quickly as mine. I do not know what to do, but I am certain I am done being this powerless. I am going to learn how to heal and how to better deal with poisons; it’s time we learn how to use this to our advantage.

In the meantime, all I can do is sing to Riva. I hold her tight and sing the songs our mother sang to us. Yes, she cannot hear my words, but I am certain she can feel the vibrations from my voice, and somehow, this might bring comfort to the hell she is in.

Keeya

I am ready to go out into the city. Everyone has risked life and limb for us, but I have not yet proven my worth: I am ready. Ever since Nelethiel’s death, I have felt powerless. I look now at the ring Neleryn graciously gave me and it gives me hope and purpose. She was so very strong and I want that. I need that. I look at Kyrk, confused and still in disbelief of this single creature that devastated us, and I want to make him proud. I want him to feel his sacrifice for me was worth all he as lost.

I will leave and find us safe refuge for the next few days. Ivan wanted to come with me, but I can see in his heart he does not want to leave his sister. The love that exists for his sister is something I have not seen for such a long time. Kyrk used to look at me in a similar way, but that has faded for his books and knowledge. I am sure it’s just him dealing with loss and the horrible torture he endured. Before, I found his approaches to be flattering, but truly unwanted. My heart is still with my husband, rest his soul, but, at the same time, I find myself missing Kyrk’s stares. Ivan continues to flirt with me, but he is so young, so inexperienced with life. I am losing focus. I need to be strong and help. I need my thoughts to be strong and not aloof. I will find us a place of sanctuary and deal with my emotions later. I will follow Kyrk’s lead and be focus for his sake, and the sake of all others here.

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The Battle of Defender's Heart
Locke's Journal

We managed to traverse across the city to Defender’s Heart. Funny to think that just a few weeks ago I was babysitting Trynna and the some of the Wolves while they sat here and finished ALL of the ale. Now, it is a keep worthy of it’s name.

It was good to see the Queen as well as Commander Irabeth are still standing strong. The Queen gave several rousing speeches that helped keep the morale of the men strong. We will need all the morale we can get in these dark times. We have to stay strong.

THe Heroe’s of Kenabres departed on what seemed a very important task assigned to them. The Queen and the Commander have put a lot of faith in these individuals. I pray to Iomedae to guide them on the right path to save this City.

I was downstairs helping tend to the sick when I was suddenly summoned by the Queen. When I got upstairs, there was a familiar face being apprehended by the guards. Faxon had sought me out to deliver a grave message. Minagho was on her way to take down Defender’s Heart. Faxon begged and pleaded with me to save him from being cast back out into the city where Minagho would come for him. I wish I could have saved him. The Queen ordered that he be released but not let inside Defender’s Heart. If only he hadn’t charmed me to try to manipulate me, maybe I could have spoken to the Queen on his behalf.

Minagho, with a small army of demons and corrupted men, marched on Defender’s Keep. We did our best to defend it but we were overwhelmed by the demons. Many men and citizens were slaughtered, but the Queen held strong. THe few of us left managed to keep the lesser demons at bay while the Queen battled Minagho. Things were looking grim, but then something completely unexpected happened. Baphomet appeared before us and struck Minagho in rage. He said that Minagho had “failed him for the last time”. Lucky for us, a wounded Minagho retreated but she will still have to be dealt with. Perhaps the Heroes of Kenabres succeeded in their mission. And just in time too!

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