Session 6: “Cold and Unnerving”
From the journal of Adra Kellen:
Nymm 18, 817
Bank of the Skunk River, The Narlmarches
This land never ceases to disturb me. Today we came across a sunken clearing, it was devoid of life. No forest creatures had been in the area, it was as if the entire land had been cordoned off. There is no doubt that this entire land is cursed. As we ventured further in we came across a ghastly sight. A unicorn lay dead at the shore of a fetid pool. We approached the dead creature cautiously, scanning our surroundings as we were sure that whatever did this could be just out of sight. The reek of rotting vegetation was overwhelming as we drew near to the pool where the unicorn lay. Once there, we examined the remains. It was as if the creature had just died. There were no signs of decay. No insect or other beast had touched the corpse. While it showed no signs of rotting it was in fact dead for days. Its eyes were milky white and its lips and gums were turned black. Its horn had been crudely removed post-mortem, but there were no signs of what had killed it. We figured it must have been a poison that was ingested or perhaps dark magic. Stone suggested it was the work of dark fey. He proudly announced that he had heard of occurrences like this back under the mountain. What does a Dwarf know of the fey? Stone has hardly a right to call himself an armorer with his disability, what right does he have to declare he knows anything of fey magic and creatures? Apparently being cursed by the fey makes you an expert…
What happened next was absolute lunacy. Kurgar in a fit of madness pulled a blade and began to carve at the dead thing’s flesh. As we questioned him, he took a hunk of flesh and began to devour it as fast as he could. It may have been the most disgusting thing I had seen Kurgar do. Which is saying something. As he finished his barbaric feasting it seemed that he was suddenly aware of what horror he had committed. He immediately sprung up and began to run toward the east. He was choking and coughing the entire way. In the distance we could here terrible retching and what I have come to understand as dwarven vulgarities. Boris had called out to check on him, but received his fair share of pointed insults and told to leave him be.
Cedric and Stone meanwhile had been discussing the fate of the unicorn. Stone suggested we move the thing to dry land and burn it. I protested that we should just leave it be. I admit I was a bit unnerved by the thing. I had only heard of unicorns in tales, they were described as unworldly beautiful and graceful creatures. For something to kill one and leave it like this…There was also the issue of the nature of its death. I didn’t want to disturb any disease or lingering curse that would affect us. Kurgar had already seemed to succumb to some compulsion; I had no interest in becoming feral and sharing in his misery. Stone had already pulled out rope and began to drag the poor creature from its resting place. He and Cedric delivered it to a fairly dry location and began to build a pyre. Stone offered to say a few words, he not once mentioned the Silver Flame. It continues to baffle me as to who he had spoken with to be placed on this ‘pilgrimage.’ I doubt very much that he spoke with an actual priest. I have not once heard of the Purified being offered healing in return for a pilgrimage.
Nymm 19, 817
Bank of the Skunk River, The Narlmarches
Stone’s ears and tail are gone; however his arms are now covered with strange faintly glowing markings. Apparently he must have done the right thing with burning the unicorn. I intend to administer a few tests to determine the nature of the markings on his arms.
Nymm 19, 817
Bank of the Skunk River, The Narlmarches
Nothing can really prepare you for the horrors out here. As witnessed yesterday, this place is a land full of death and terrors that haunt the dreams of children. Today we discovered that Tatzlwyrms are very much real and as deadly as they were described to be. Fortunately the creatures could be slain like most anything else can, by blade and arrow. It should be noted that most of the evil out in these lands require the use of cold iron. I wasn’t sure if these creatures had a particular vulnerability to it, but I am in dire need to resupply my stock of cold iron tipped arrows.
We had followed the river from our camp this morning to what appeared to be a shallow ford. Not far from the ford we spotted a rather large dam built of various brush and limbs. One of the others had noticed that human corpses were in the dam. I didn’t notice at first, but it was later determined to be the case. I had already been on guard, but the others soon drew their weapons. I noticed what the others thought was merely a log in the river moving toward us with haste. I fired an arrow at it and it revealed its true nature. The Tatzlwyrm took the arrow and only seemed to be spurred on by it. It made shore and climbed a nearby tree within seconds. I fired another arrow at it as it began to brace itself on the limb it had perched on. Cedric began to bang his shield as he does and began to coax it down. It didn’t really require coaxing as the thing leaped from the tree directly at Cedric, Stone intervened killing it with one mighty blow. The creature had been distracting us, allowing its mate to flank us. The thing lashed out with even more fury than I thought possible of a creature that size. Cedric repelled its attacks the best he could allowing the others to maneuver to attack it. I tried to fire an arrow at the thing, but it had coiled itself around Cedric and there was too much a risk at hitting him. It was finally dispatched, but not before it expelled some sort of toxic breath. Everyone seemed unaffected, but I was not aware the creature had that ability. Something the locals had not warned us about.
It was confirmed that the creatures had been intertwining their kills with their den. We located the corpses of several individuals that appeared to be trappers and huntsmen. One corpse was still dressed in the same motifs of the bandits we had fought up at the fort. Stone found a jade statue of an elf. It was extremely detailed and looked nothing like the elves I had encountered. It was a real oddity to find something like it so far out here. I will need to have someone translate the inscription; unfortunately no one in our group reads the elven language. Though based on its craftsmanship and style it may be quite ancient.
Nymm 21, 817
We had a single day of rest between horrific sights. Today we found the remains of a very badly burned half-elf (as far as we can tell anyway). The body was found in an area of the wood that had suffered from a severe fire. Perhaps it was brought on by a lightning strike? The body was partially eaten, most likely by a Tatzlwyrm, based on the tooth marks and size of the bites. Curiously the corpse had remained here. We deduced that this person was from Galt based on the tattoos we found on what was left of it. We couldn’t decipher what the person was doing out here as most other clues were destroyed by the fire or by beast. We provided a proper burial for the deceased in accordance with the Silver Flame. I wanted to be sure that the soul found rest and wouldn’t rise from the grave. The last thing we need out here is another undead abomination.
Nymm 22, 817
We had just broken camp this morning when the weather took a turn for the worst. A powerful storm ripped through the woods and the rains were almost blinding. We had taken shelter under some of the larger and older trees but the horses were extremely unwilling to move after the rains would subside. The rain was unbearable, but when the hail started we were caught in a section of newer growth and were without much shelter. The size of the hail seemed to just increase as we tried to find adequate shelter. The horses were even harder to control as hail slapped down on them. Through the deafening roar of the winds and clatter of the hail we heard a gruff voice calling out. We had thought it might be Kurgar as we hadnt seen him since the unicorn incident. We followed the voice the best we could and finally approached a shack and shelter large enough for the horse to huddle under. It was a dwarf, but it wasnt Kurgar. Grissom the trapper gestured us to come out of the storm and we made our way into his shack. Boris tended to the horses and tried to comfort them as best as he could. He continued to talk with his horse, Panther, for some time after he had settled the others. I swear he treats that horse like if it could understand him. Though I guess it kind of does. Grissom had a pot of stew cooking and offered to share it up with us. He shared news from Oleg’s and we shared what we had done regarding the Stag Lord and the Fort on the Tuskwater. The others also shared our victory at the Tatzlwyrm Ford which Grissom had a hard time believing until Boris provided proof with that of one of the creatures’ heads. I had little need to share our victories with the trapper and took to updating my notes and maps of the area. Grissom saw that I was retracing a map that was damaged in the rain and offered to point out some local features including several locations that he had placed traps. He noted half dozen pitfalls and about another dozen bear traps in the area ahead of us.
Nymm 25, 817
Trail to Olegs
I’m alone for the first time in months. Its a strange feeling. I am more on guard, but also somehow relaxed. While the others have proven themselves to be mostly capable, I have tired of their faults working against our business here. The constant bickering and childlike behavior is just too much sometimes. Though, a part of me will miss them when I am on a river barge heading for more civilized lands.
We arrived back at the Tuskwater Fort fairly late in the afternoon. As we rode up, Garress and Akiros greeted us with news from Oleg’s. They had received word that a representative of the Sword Lords was to be arriving in the next several days, by month’s end. There was some talk as to whether we would all ride north to meet the agent or split the group and have only some of us meet with him. I volunteered to ride up alone, mostly to end the indecision and for my own reasons. A bath would be most sublime. Cedric argued it would be dangerous to go alone; Boris insisted he ride with me. The both of them are so overprotective. I swear it’s as if they were blind to my every action out here. I can handle myself without the assistance of these men. I told both of them not to worry, what I wanted to tell them was-…………-
Boris offered the use of his horse, which I only accepted because it seemed that was the only way he would let me go alone. Panther is a monster of a horse, he’s about 18 hands and extremely intelligent. I’m not sure if he’s any faster than Ember, but he doesn’t tire and follows the path without much guidance. Panther was probably strong enough to ride through the night, that is if I wasn’t so tired.
Now, I really wonder if I’ll need to return with the agent of the Sword Lords. Maybe he will present me with a letter from the embassy in Brindol. Perhaps I will be on my next assignment by the end of the month.
Nymm 28, 817
Oleg’s Trading Post
The nerve of that brazen licentious mud brained hedge-pig. I have never met such a scoundrel. Vethel Garress, Agent of the Sword Lords and the biggest pillock in all of Rhest, the River Lands, and maybe Galifar. He shares his name with Kesten, but that’s where the similarities end. The man has absolutely no decorum.
When I arrived back at Oleg’s it was some time in the afternoon. I saw the usual characters that make the trading post their home. Gathered in the courtyard was Bokken with his berry bowl, Old Poon spouting off some mad tale, and Jessi-Belle flirting with a caravan captain. I was going to warn the man, but I figured if he was foolish enough to be talking with her then he deserves what he’ll get. I had little time to dawdle, I had more important matters. I found Svetlana and exchanged a few pleasantries while also catching each other up on what has transpired in each other’s absence. She informed that the agent had not arrived yet, but was sure to be here any day now. I was relieved and requested if she could draw a bath and launder my clothing. She was happy to oblige and as luck should have it she was already preparing one for the caravan captain who was now very much preoccupied with the local harlot.
Svetlana led me back to the bunk house where we’d stayed before. I noticed it had several improvements and I also noticed a new building beside it. Oleg had been working to add more accommodations as he had seen far more traffic to the area since we arrived. Svetlana provided some clothing and left it on the changing screen in the next room while I sank into the very inviting bath. I must have fallen asleep as I was extremely rattled by a knocking at the door. I first thought it was Svetlana returning with fresh laundry, but she wouldn’t repeatedly slam a fist on the door. I called out and got an answer. It was Vethel, the representative. He wanted to speak with me immediately about his business here. I asked if he could return later and he insisted he could not. I began to tell him that we had completed our tasks, when he interrupted me and explained that he did not like speaking through a door, I replied that I disliked speaking while taking a bath. I begrudgingly exited the now cooling tub, though it was warmer than the air. If I wasn’t so upset with the man, I would have been shivering.
I realized then that I had only a towel, Svetlana had left me clothing in the other room, the one that was now occupied by the cur. I opened the door slowly to see if I could make the screen without Vethel observing. It was just out of reach and the man had positioned a chair to face the door. The nerve of this one. I made for the screen; Vethel stopped his incessant rambling about his obligation to report on us for just a second and then continued once I was safely behind the screen. He continued to talk to me as I dressed and kept asking questions about the character of my companions. I asked that he wait until I was done. He obliged, but continued to talk about himself. When I exited the screen fully clothed, he looked at me as if I was still wearing but a towel. If I had my bow on me I would have been tempted to put out his eyes, like I did to that miserable bandit we found on the road. I wanted to finish this impolite meeting and be done with him, so I returned his conversation back to the matter of the charter. He asked that we continue the discussion over dinner.
At this point I was holding back a fury that only those that get on the wrongside of a Thrane know. I must ask, why are all the men out here crazed lunatics, sex craved deviants, or plain imbeciles? Apparently the further from the center of this continent the more primitive the minds of men get. I finally accepted his invitation as I had not eaten more than trail rations for the last few days and a warm meal would keep me from murdering this man as he slept. He was staying at the newly constructed cottage. Oleg delivered a meal for two which included Moon Radish soup. Vethel quickly went on a rant disparaging the company I kept. From Cedric being a hedge knight that ran away from his family’s obligations to Boris who had more in common with the druids than the nobility his family served. I mostly agreed with what he had to say, more so when he approached the topic of the dwarves. I reminded him that I had not chosen these companions and almost defended them when his remarks were too callous. I was almost offended, I’m not sure if I had grown attached to them or I was just upset at Vethel.
He moved on to talk about my personal history which I made him change the subject. He was really more interested in me, rather than my history. I was able to play into his ego and had him tell me about his family and the noble lines of Rhestilor. Vethel spoke at length about the greatness of his family and its successful history. He went on to detail the current politics which I found surprising. Apparently there had been some sort of skirmish between the Cissarovnas and the Fellstorms. The conflict ended with the Cissarovna Hunting Lodge being burned down and the patriarch being killed. To keep an outright war from emerging Quintus Fellstorm made an arrangement with the Medyevs to marry off his sister in exchange for the Medyevs releasing one of the Fellstorms who was injured in the fighting. This must have been what Cedric was so tense about when Stone had delivered that letter to him. I saw Kesten and Cedric speak in private, but the conversations were never that heated. It’s astonishing he was able to keep this a private matter, what’s even more fascinating is how Cedric and Boris have not killed each other over this situation.
His tale began to falter and he realized that I had only been feigning interest, though I was genuinely interested in the intrigue between Boris’ and Cedric’s families. When I tried to have him continue, he realized I was only trying to get at information about him. Vethel had training in deception and detecting it. He moved the conversation back toward my own history and life and I tried to steer it back down another path. It was actually almost enjoyable. I hadn’t been around someone who had this quick of a mind and trained to use it in some time. I was quickly reminded of his true nature when he again attempted to invite me to his bed. I reminded him of our long trip ahead of us and the need to rise early. He accepted that answer, but seemed he would try again on the trail to the fort. It took all of my will to not break his teeth with the candelabra as I parted his company. If he lays a hand or anything else on me again during the trip I will not hesitate in making a few adjustments to his appearance.
Lharvion 1, 817
Trail to Fort Tuskwater
Vethel’s personality has changed somewhat. I wonder if it has anything to do with the Moon Radishes. I made sure to ask Svetlana for a satchel full before leaving the trading post this morning.
Having discussed some matters last night, I was curious if he had anything to say about our time here coming to an end or if the Sword Lords had further plans for us. He had little that he could share without confirming we had completed the charter. I must admit the man is handsome and completely capable at his occupation. After discussing matters last night I was able to detect how well trained he was. He continued today trying to gather information about the others and about myself. I am sure the Sword Lords are looking to feel out if we had done the job and to ascertain if we could be trusted for further tasks. My praise ends here. The man is a womanizer and clearly enjoys his station. Being an agent of the Sword Lords lets him wield power that few would question. His job takes him places far from the metropolitan centers and his sharp tongue and sophisticated dress could convince any humble maiden that a dashing gentleman like him could take her away from her dreary life on the farm. I am sure his conquests are far and wide. Unfortunately for him, I am unimpressed with his office and have no desire to be bedded by a vagabond with less tact than a dwarf.
Lharvion 2, 817
Trail to Fort Tuskwater
A quick note, Vethel will no longer be a problem. We had a ‘discussion’ last night that should end his immoral thoughts towards me.
Lharvion 3, 817
Fort Serenity, formerly Fort Tuskwater
Back in the fort, which has received a new name courtesy of Cedric. Fort Serenity has been spruced up a bit since I left. The men had been busy making repairs, apparently keeping themselves from being idle. It was actually nice to see a few familiar faces after riding alone with Vethel for the last three days. While he didn’t give up entirely on his primal urges, they have subsided enough to hold a conversation with him, in fact when he entered the fort it was like I had vanished. He lost all interest and went to business. Apparently he couldn’t act that way with a woman. Vethel immediately went about with Cedric inspecting the fort and listening to a similar story I had told him days before. He acted as if this was the first time hearing it and even had Cedric question me as to why I hadn’t shared anything with Vethel. What a jerk.
The plan is to ride out in the morning. I am almost giddy at the notion that I might be free of my service here. We are planning to head to Brindol and meet with the Sword Lords concerning the completion of our charter. Vethel’s assessment was completed this morning after viewing several pieces of evidence and taking the testimony of Akiros, Jhod, Kesten, and each of us. He officially invited us to Brindol. By midafternoon we had decided to make ready to ride out the next day. We intend to stop at Oleg’s to claim several of the bounties that we had and resupply for our trip north. Happily, the trip will be comfortable compared to travel in the Greenbelt. We will be traveling roads again and staying in roadside inns. Not that I love roadside inns, some are no better than sleeping outside, but we will be out of the elements and have the prospect of warm water. Kesten would remain at the fort with Akiros and the others. I was always apprehensive of Akiros; the man was in league with the Stag Lord, though he has shown redemption. I can appreciate that.
Lharvion 14, 817 – Silvertide
Brindol – Cissarovna Estate
I have made a terrible mistake, perhaps it’s due to my breaking prayer earlier today. This place is so bleak and barren I feel like I am back at the priory. I know Cedric offered lodging at his family’s estate and now I feel I should have taken him up on that offer. My suffering is acceptable so as I know that Ilsa will be okay.
We arrived in Brindol early this morning. I was happy to be in town and headed straight to church. It was Silvertide after all and I hadn’t been to a real service in months. I reminded Stone of this and he asked where “Silverside” was…I left him right there. Just before I left Cedric offered to have me stay at his estate. I insisted I would find my own lodgings.
It was sometime after sunset when I received a message from Boris. Thank the Flame his infernal bird doesn’t function here. Could you imagine it screeching as it flew into the church and delivered its message as it sat perched on the altar? An acolyte delivered a hand written message that detailed a pressing matter at the Cissarovna manor just outside of town. I initially thought it had burned down, but apparently that was another estate. I was at first angry that he had interrupted my day of prayer and reflection, but when I found out what the concern was over I was less upset. Boris’s younger sister had a gift of Spiritsight. While on its own it is not inherently evil or dangerous, letting it develop without supervision from a spiritual leader can be disastrous. If she does not receive proper instruction she would certainly fall prey to some evil spirit looking for a host.
Boris brought me to his estate which was grandiose, but sparingly furnished. Ilsa was in her room when I arrived and was extremely nervous speaking with me. After some time without Boris in the room she confided in me and I began to understand her condition. Boris’s mother Madame Ebihelin Cissarovna and now head of the house thanked me for my assistance.
I am ashamed to say that of all the horrors I’ve seen in the last several months, nothing had prepared me to meet this woman. She was almost identical to my own mother. To say that it was awkward would be an understatement. I went from being sure of myself and examining Ilsa as a trained inquisitor of the Church of the Silver Flame to stumbling over my words and avoiding eye contact. In fact I was so nervous and she acted so much like Nyxxa, that I may have called her Mother. Embarrasment aside, I was terrified. I couldn’t tell if she heard me or not. It was so startling. I was immediately homesick. I had not seen my own mother in almost five years. It’s not that I want to see her, theres a reason I haven’t been home in a half decade, but seeing this woman and how she acted instantly brought me home under her rule.
Ebihelin insisted I stay for dinner and stay the night in one of the many guest rooms. I of course accepted, more out of fear and always answering my own mother with affirmatives. While dinner was acceptable, the quarters remain wanting. I have been to roadside inns that were more accommodating than this prison cell of a room. I am having flashbacks to my time as an acolyte writing by candlelight in the dormitory of the priory. Even there we had more than a single sheet on the bed and single candle to read by. It is by the Flame’s grace that its summer and I do not require more blankets. As it is I am shivering and wearing my long coat while I write this. I won’t even go into my disappointment of the bath I just took. Let me just say it was cold and unsettling.
I plan to make reservations at the Stone Wyvern as soon as I wake tomorrow.