Last Stand of the 5th Crusade

The Bigger Picture
Kyrk's Journal 10

I fear - no, I KNOW — we have made a big and terrible mistake.

Since forcing Minagho and Midnight to flee Ralinscrad and leading (herding?) the surviving crusaders and prisoners out of that doomed city, I have told myself that I am now seeing the big picture and planning and prepping for “the greater good.” That my growing arcane power has been in the service of the mission — closing the Worldwound — and my intellectual arguments with my friends and party members based on sound reasoning and measured calculation — balance, even.

And yet, in no small part because of MY thinking and exhortations, we just left 30 or more people to die in the Worldwound, because the overall “mission” required us to get to Drezen as quickly as possible so that we might fulfill the instructions of Queen Galfrey. I told myself and the others, that we could still help the people being led by the heretic cleric of Erastil (whom, I suspect, is actually under some sort of demonic possession) to the Tomb of Delemer in the Weeping Hills by informing those in Drezen who could then rescue them, but I know now that that was a lie I told myself to justify my fear of making an ACTUAL decision of consequence and leadership. Much easier just to defer to the supposed wisdom of the military commanders and just keep following orders.

But meeting Tirq, hearing of the elf Daeven’s death (and somehow his consignment to Hell?), learning that that Tatsu is also compromised infernally, Airyn somehow in violation of Erastil’s traditions, and the powerful sorcerer Atepna either corrupted by the pursuit of raw power or isolating herself from the empathy necessary for a balanced perspective — or both! — has shaken me to my core. The vaunted Heroes of Kenebres are broken, perhaps beyond the point of repair and redemption. And the leaders of Drezen now complicit (along with members of OUR party) in maintaining the fiction that the Heroes are as strong and vital as ever in the crusade.

This moment requires more than just following orders or rationalizing the bigger picture to be a military mission to defeat the demons and close the abyssal rift. The balance of nature and power requires more than just a tilt back from Chaos to Law. In equal measure (and perhaps now to a greater degree), this moment requires the championing of what is Good over Evil. Individual lives must not be ignored. Corruption cannot be prevented purely by force. It must be countered by champions of heart and kindness — empathy as well as bravery.

Riva has been battered emotionally, spiritually, and now possibly demonically. Barca, for all his bravery and strength, is still a child, and he has been staggered emotionally by the true state of the Heroes. I will try to rise to the occasion and become a force within our party for a more holistic approach. But I suspect it is Locke whom we should look to now for leadership. Without him, we would not have been able to rally the crusaders in Ralinscrad to follow us out without allowing Corminoth to be killed. And without Locke’s pure-hearted assessment and forceful presence, I don’t think the rest of us will be able to address the upcoming moments and decisions we face with the just, honest, and Good response that will be necessary. I will do my best to convince him to step up, even as I swear to myself to take each moment — each metaphorical fork in the road — as an opportunity to do the right thing, not just what seems to be the most rational thing.

If we are truly to be Knights of Promise, we must demonstrate that we do in fact show promise to be more and bring more to the fight than even the powerful Heroes of Kenebres have. Clearly, how they prepared and what roles they took and decisions they made, were not up to the task. It’s possible we might fail as well, but I hope and have to believe that we can learn more quickly than they did what this bigger picture requires.

Power is important, and I will still continue to push my arcane knowledge as far as I can. But power applied properly is crucial, and finding the wisdom to make the right decisions should be just as important to me and my companions. I will carry the weight of the souls we just abandoned with me and try to find the inspiration to do right by them from now on by doing right for all.

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Cohort Logs: 2 Neth 4713

Auctus

We have arrived in Drezen, a worn-down city occupied by demons for the last 75 years, and even before, was only occupied by crusaders for 10 years prior. This fortress has much more history to tell, and I am eager to learn about it, but the present takes priority. The city is rebuilding slowly, with over 2,000 men and women station here. After my first night, I felt safe within the walls and slept better than I have in months.

I met a dwarf named Joran Vhane, the younger brother to Staunton Vhane, the anti-paladin that betrayed the crusades in 4638 by giving Jerribeth the Sword of Valor. He is a troubled man that the Heroes of Kenabres have saved from certain death at the hands of his brother and are giving a second chance. He is curt and rude, but we have found a mutual respect for each other working at the forge. The Corruption Forge housed in the basement of Drezen is an artifact of incredible power and opportunity. Joran is teaching me to use it through the pounding of steel we are finding a sense of peace.

Ivan

We have finally arrived at that vanguard of the crusades, and if what I am hearing is of any consequence, the crusades will not last long. I have spent time learning of the soldiers stationed in all three rally points: the Northbank, the Southbank and Paradise Hill. I have avoided the cemetery for obvious reasons.

Everything seems to hinge on the Heroes of Kenabres. The soldiers tell stories of a recent chimera battle and how the Heroes nearly single-handedly stormed the gates to defeat the demons of fire and pain and allow the crusaders to pour into Drezen without losing too many lives. Lives were lost, but if not for the valiant display of power and nobility, many more would have perished. The reality of these stories seems to be much different.

Keeya has seen into the hearts of the people here. She is certain demons walk among the wall of Drezen, but cannot confirm it. We were able to determine that Daeven’s body is warped with the powers of Hell and believe that Tatsu is also hell-bound. R’atla’s stories of Atepna seem fairly accurate, but I can see there is much more behind those eyes. I feel she is not the cold temptress that R’atla is sure she is, but a woman with a weight on her soldiers that only a few could understand. I have had little contact with Airyn, but she is quick to anger and seems dangerous.

I have decided to work closely with Anevia to help spread stories of hope. If people find out the truth, if they find out the heroes are corrupted, we will lose this war.

Keeya

I am fearful. I walk the grounds of this fortress and listen and watch. The people are truly good at heart but weak in spirit. Riva, my dear friend is dealing with so much and I only fear her interactions with a demon held captive below could strain her. We are not allowed to speak to this creature and I dare not try my hand to force it. Retribution is swift here and I do not blame them.

Ivan walks with me and together we are learning more of the crusaders. I am seeing much change in him, a maturity is starting to surface and he is actively taking a role for the greater good. I am proud of him and am starting to see him as a brother. His flirtatious behavior with me is also starting to pass and I think he is beginning to see me as a sister, or maybe an aunt. Auctus is right at home and is working with a dwarf to purify a forge in the bowels of Drezen.

Barca is my greatest concern. He seems to be taking the reality of the heroes to heart. Of all of us, I think he feels betrayed that the Heroes of Kenabres are capable of corruption and could fail at their mission. Barca is so very young and he truly does not understand the complexities of the heart and soul. I have seen so many men fall and so many people do nothing in times of need, please Barca, do not falter where others have.

R’atla

Back in the heart of temptation and fear. I carry more weight on this trip, both Tirq and now the thought of all those men we left to die in the wounded lands. This priest of Erastil who led his followers with him into the night for safety, did they survive? Was he possessed or dominated by a dark force? And what did we do? Nothing. We continued on our way somehow telling ourselves this mission we are on takes priority to anything else. Yes, I can see the argument, but what of those lives? 30 more people have probably died and only Iomedae knows who are what else is dying in those blighted hills.

I must follow the steps of my faith. I must stay true to the people I am to protect. I cannot let myself be overwhelmed by the loss of life just over the horizon. To be a hero means to fight the big fight and to let the innocent parish, let the lesser man deal with the lesser men… but isn’t that what we are, the lesser men? I am conflicted and wracked with guilt. Iomedae, matron of battle and valor, please give me strength.

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Riva: The Uprising

The_Uprising.jpg

The Uprising represents being caught in the clutches of something much more powerful than you. It is an overwhelming strength that often crushes what comes in contact with it. The crown held high signifies an overthrowing of a leader of some sort. In the spread, it indicates a force much stronger than the person receiving the reading.

And so it was. When I drew The Uprising last midnight, I didn’t share it with the others. I knew too well what it meant.

I went to see Ivan, but he was already asleep. He’d been scouting for the entryway of the werewolf’s prison all morning, then working with Auctus on Minagho’s journal all day. Let him sleep. I kissed his forehead and told him, “Little brother, I’m so proud of you.”

Keeya was still awake. I took her hand and thanked her for being there for me, for just being a friend. She looked at me quizzically, her green eyes searching. I wonder what it’s like, seeing generations of humans grow old around you. I can’t imagine we make any more sense with time. After a few moments, she just smiled worriedly and gave me a gentle hug. I felt the urge to cry, to tell her how scared I was, to scream as loud as I could just in the hopes that I could hear myself, and most of all to beg her to just please keep me from sleeping. I held her tight, feeling the emotion burn through me until all was cold ash. She offered to sit up with me again, but I just shook my head.

My fate is clear. There is no point in denying or fighting it.

I laid out my bedroll, lay down, and pulled the blankets around me. I remembered an old prayer-song that mama once taught me, a blessing for the traveler bound for unknown lands, not knowing if she will ever return. In my mind, I sang it with her. I closed my eyes.

————

The dream again, flying over grey hills on black, shadowy wings. This time no butterfly: just the cold blue light of the northern star piercing straight through me. It went on and on. So many symbols.

Kyrk and Auctus copied some down. Their efforts are kind, but I know that I am in this alone.

————

The Uprising, grim message aside, is a card of chaos. It seems that my chaotic spirit is one of fire, and purging flame is this card’s motif. This spirit has never spoken to me, but I can sense it on the periphery of consciousness — a sense of warmth, an orange glow to the world around me, feeling like dancing sparks are coursing through my body, stirring my blood and quickening my step.

In battle it is anything but subtle, though! I cast fire from my hands again and again while fighting the werewolves, even when I was surrounded by them, badly wounded, bitten by their master. I fell in battle, surrounded by wolves, pulled to safety by Kyrk. I poisoned myself with belladonna to cure myself of the lycanthropy that had taken hold of me.

I need to be more careful. This spirit whispered to me in the chaos of battle, urging me on without any regard for safety. I must remember that next time. Still, even when I felt the lycanthropy inside me, I knew: this is not how I will die.

————

It is night again. I’ve told Ivan to bind me should I begin to sleepwalk: I cannot allow myself to be a danger to the others.

I am beyond exhaustion, but I know that if I do not sleep it will come regardless, and the hallucinations of waking dreams are worse. So I sleep! Desna protect me.

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Letter to Corminoth Wolmor

Corminoth,

I write to you in hope of bolstering your fortitude and strength. I pray that you will stay strong and stay true to the path on your journey to redemption .

It is my understanding that you are no stranger to the pain and agony of losing your loved ones. Do not let the pain and anguish drive you but instead remember those that cared for you and those that you care for.

Before being recruited by the Wolves of Kenabres, I fought at the Battle of Yath Tower. I was powerless that day as I watched my companions, my brothers, slaughtered .

So many times I’ve wanted to give it all up. The eternal struggle to combat evil can take its toll on a man. I have come to learn that I can’t do it on my own. Iomedae gives me the strength to go on and she can do the same for you.Let the Inheritor bear your torch.

Stay true to the Path.

-Locke

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Drums of the Past, and Collecting Strays
Barca's journal 0.7

Was that an image/feeling of my ancestors? I haven’t thought about my mother or my old life in weeks…truthfully, longer than that. It also brought back memories of that night, when I was left alone, the only member of my tribe left, village burning and lighting up the sky.
Can’t dwell, tasks at hand…but maybe, maybe I need to try and reconnect with my past in some way? Time will tell, but if we get out of here, I promise myself I will try.
Not that getting out of here will be easy, we barely managed to subdue the poor crusaders turned to beasts by that Werewolf/Bugbear…and he got away, I wanted to give chase and finish him like wounded prey, but we were still surrounded by to many turned souls, and if not for a heroic maneuver by Kyrk, Riva may not even be with us. It is a tough reminder to not let myself forget the team, and that none of us is invincible.
Now how the hell are we going to get out of hell?

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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

The_Trumpet.jpg

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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