Session 5: “Tuskgutter’s End”
From the journal of Adra Kellen:
Nymm 2, 817
On the Trail, between Oleg’s and Tuskwater Fortress
I had a chance to speak with Jhod during our travel to the Tuskwater Fortress. He shared with me that the fortress was once a monastery to the Hag Queen Gyronna. Apparently, Jhod has a good deal of knowledge pertaining to these lands. The monastery was home to a coven of witches that worshipped this hag as a god, as she granted them wishes. From what Jhod has told me, I believe that this coven was a Cult of the Dragon Below. Many of these cults have similar themes and this one being led by a hag is no different from the numerous cults I have studied in my lessons as an acolyte. I once had the displeasure of discovering a cult masquerading as worshippers of Arawai. This one, from the sound of it called itself a monastery and attracted ascetics for quiet study and reflection while the coven preyed on them.
Nymm 3, 817
Back in the fortress. Even though Cedric and the two supposedly reforming bandits cleaned up the mess from a few days ago, knowing its history the fort has taken on a more sinister feel. Not to mention the imminent threat of the undead just outside, in the fields surrounding the fort. Jhod has discussed how we should go about killing the abominations, while I suggested we take positions atop the walls and fire at them from safety. We will take to this tomorrow.
When we arrived I noticed that Cedric wasn’t exactly himself. Curious. I wonder if this fort has had an effect on him. Its history of witches and hags could have corrupted more than the graves out in the fields. I have alerted him to the fort’s past and he has had a feeling that something impure had gone on here, even before the Stag Lord took up its residence. He has assured me that no evil has overtaken him. He complained to Stonehands that he has had little to nothing to drink; apparently that flask on his hip is not endless…
Nymm 4, 817
The undead are finally at rest. Between Jhod, Boris, and I we were able to make sure that the bodies of the monastery’s previous inhabitants never rise again. The dead bandits were burned shortly after we left for Oleg’s several days ago. It’s as if the fort itself has brightened. The dark halls of its interior seem to be slightly brighter and the courtyard is fresher, as if a great wind had blown away any remnants of what ever had lingered here. Glory to the Flame.
Nymm 6, 817
A message has arrived from Oleg’s. The missive was addressed to us by the Sword Lords. Apparently our letters were received. An agent of the Sword Lords will be sent down to Oleg’s within the next few weeks, hopefully by the end of the month. This comes as we were discussing finishing the exploration of the forest to the west to further complete the charter. The plan was to ride out today and return before Lharvion.
Nymm 6, 817
Edge of the forest, the Narlmarches
We rode out to the forest’s edge and decided to make camp just outside the Narlmarches. Cedric was a little less than eager to re-enter the forest as last time he was afflicted with green fur, fey curse. We broke out our gear and made camp. Boris has decided to go hunting before the sun sets. The rest of are remaining here.
Cedric has been uncharacteristically quiet on the trip from the fort. I was able to speak with him, though I might have unnerved him as I haven’t been too comfortable talking with the rest of the party. I just haven’t really had reason to. This situation is of concern. Cedric is the default leader of this expedition and if his head is not in the right place then we are all in danger. He assured me that he was focused on the mission. Apparently there has been some situation in the north concerning his family and his thoughts have wandered to their wellbeing and safety. Acceptable, though he should be able to distance himself. From what I can understand, Cedric has been away from his house and family commitments for nearly a decade. I’ve been away nearly as long. I can’t say I understand his devotion. If he left his family there’s a reason for it. Why else would you leave?
Boris made his way back to camp with a trapper in tow. The two of them seemed to have been able to take down a bear. Our hunter had success. Cedric seemed slightly uneasy about the man who entered the camp, though I could only assess that he was similar to the trappers out here in this lawless land. I could detect no ill intention, only a need to be free of any law or civilization. He immediately took a liking to Stonehands and was thrilled to see Kurgar. Let me repeat that. Thrilled to see Kurgar…
I took a closer interest in this man, he had introduced himself as Ellios and had been trapping in the area for the last few years. The man had a certain sophistication about him that just didn’t lend to trapping or for being thrilled to see Kurgar. Seriously? Anyway, he gave us the majority of the bear and joined us for dinner. He shared what he knew about the Narlmarches and the Greenbelt as a whole, much of which we either deciphered on our own or had been told by others.
Nymm 7, 817
Edge of the forest, the Narlmarches
By the Eternal Flame, I had the most uncomfortable sleep. My rest was constantly interrupted by a rustling and howling not far from camp. It only seemed to get louder when Kurgar was on watch. He had gone to investigate whatever was making the noise and had remained out of sight for most of his watch. I could only make out his return when it was my turn to take watch. The dwarf really should invest in some small clothes, and to think he spent the duration of his watch dressed or should I say hardly dressed like that is beyond me. I’m sometimes happy that I can’t see through darkness like some other races. I had asked him what the noise was; he claimed it was trolls mating. Once again, human sight is well enough.
Nymm 8, 817
This morning Cedric’s and Stone’s afflictions had returned. Cedric was once again covered in green fur and Stone had rabbit ears sprouting from where his ought to be. He was also cursed with a tail that resembled a rabbit’s. I was unfortunate enough to have discovered this. Stone seems to have accepted his new appearance while Cedric has remained completely covered by his plate armor. He has kept his helmet on for most of the day only removing it while we rested. While we explored we discussed some lofty subjects, including psionics and the kalashtar. I wouldn’t have guessed that any of this company would be at all knowledgeable on these topics. Surprises never cease.
Nymm 9, 817
We have made camp a safe distance from the horrific den of Tuskgutter. Earlier today we had found a set of strange hoof prints that resembled a boar’s, though they were slightly deformed. Based on the evidence we had found the day before and what Ellios had shared with us we figured that we were approaching the den of Tuskgutter. By midafternoon, we had come across a despoiled land; the trees were twisted in unnatural ways the ground looked as if no living thing had grown there for ages.
As we ventured further into the desecrated land a thick fog covered the ground and almost seemed to swallow up the sound of the surrounding forest. No birds were heard or any other creature. Our horses refused to enter any further and we had to leave them at the edge of the fog. We finally came upon a tree that contained a large hollow beneath it. The mostly obscured ground showed signs of blood and carnage that led to the hollow’s entrance. When we approached the tree, we were all unnerved. Cedric remained the most calm, while Kurgar was the farthest from. I had not seen the dwarf in such a condition. He was sweating profusely and nearly panting from fear. His skin had turned the starkest white and was visibly trembling.
Just as Boris was about to enter the hollow the creature attacked us from the trees! This was no ordinary boar, the thing was nightmare made real. It resembled a boar in only that it had tusks and hooved feet, everything else was alien. Its jaws were segmented much like the mandibles of an insect while its legs seemed adapted to springing and climbing despite its hooved feet. An evil intelligence gleamed in its crimson eyes, the thing was Khyber touched.
Boris was lucky; the thing merely impaled him and tossed him away. Our weapons seemed to do only minimal harm to the creature while Cedric’s sword devastated it. My arrows had little to no effect and in fact one had hit squarely, but was repelled by the creature’s unnatural hide. I chose cold iron arrows to fire next and the wounds it caused gave me hope we could finish the beast. The others had engaged it in melee and Stonehands delivered a killing blow that left his axe embedded in its corpse. As the thing shuddered it began to dissolve and deflate as black ichor dripped from the multiple wounds we had inflicted. The ichor seemed to further spoil the land. The creature’s head remained along with its deadly tusks.
We investigated the aberration’s den and found it to be as horrific, if not more so, that the creature itself. The cramped space under the tree was filled with bones, though not scattered and random as a natural animal’s den. The remains were arranged by a wicked intelligence driven by some unnatural evil. Crude symbols were drawn on the crumbling walls and on the earthen floor. I recognized them, but could not decipher them. Merely looking upon them had made me dizzy and repelled my intention to investigate further. The markings were of the Xoriat, the plane of madness. The creature was undoubtedly from that plane or had been left behind from its incursion to our world so long ago. Though, a more sinister and more alarming origin could be from deep within the land. Not all Xoriat creatures were eliminated or sent back to their plane. Some had remained deep within Khyber, harboring those that sought the path of madness. We should hope that this creature was an anomaly, for having a gateway to Khyber in this land would be, most unfortunate.
Nymm 10, 817
Clearing East of the Skunk River- the Narlmarches
While we have put more than a day’s travel between us and the horror of Tuskgutter’s lair, we have still encountered the creature’s unmistakable tracks. The creature’s range was rather far and looking back we may have seen its tracks as far north as the mouth of the Skunk River. I had shared my appreciation of being as far away from that den as we were and Kurgar finally broke his silence. He had not been himself since the encounter with Tuskgutter. He was quieter and less unwholesome, keeping to himself. That is not to say he is normally talkative, say like Stonehands or Cedric, but he usually will grunt or share some vile story about his conquests or regale us with his time as a mercenary. He explained that his company had faced a similar encounter to the one we had faced the day before. The company was unprepared and lost a significant number. He was scant with details and it was best not to press him. While writing, fey music can be overheard. It’s as it was the numerous times before. The others assure me that they will not venture into the night.
Nymm 11, 817
Boggard ‘Kingdom’-Sunken ruins, marsh, west of Skunk River, the Narlmarches
Today was interesting. I am writing from the ruins of a small village? It’s hard to tell exactly as the mire has reclaimed much of the worked stone and left only a few structures even remotely intact. We had passed over the Skunk River and entered a mire west of the river. Boris was the first to spot two buildings, or what was left of them. He also noticed what looked to be signs of recent habitation. When we had time to investigate it was evident that some of the ruined structures had been improved upon. This is where we encountered the boggard and its frog-like pet? The boggard was not openly hostile and even attempted to trade with Boris. He produced a dark green gem for the bag of hallucinogens Boris had found at the fort. We had known about the boggard from the kobolds, and it confirmed that it had eaten quite a few of our potential allies. It also claimed to rule these lands, the sunken ruins. We had little reason to dispute its rule as its intelligence was no more than that of a child claiming to be a knight wielding a wooden sword.
I can’t say I am pleased to be sleeping in a swamp…The agent should be back by the time we return. I can hold onto the idea of returning to civilization.
Nymm 15, 817
Balinor Monument, the Narlmarches
The worshippers of the old gods had a great day of laboring to clear an ancient monument to Balinor. We came across an overgrown statue of Balinor as his Stag avatar. Boris was most excited and immediately went about clearing debris from it. Cedric joined in and Stone also assisted. I had lost track of Kurgar in all of this as I remained focused on my notes. It gave me time to organize a few notes I had made over the last few days, which had been mostly uneventful. We made significant progress exploring the Narlmarches and at this rate should be back to the fort in a week’s time.
I need to mention that without my diligent note keeping and mapping we would be nowhere near completing this charter. Boris has proven himself to be a fair woodsman and has had the apparent luck of his patron god as we keep stumbling upon his temples and shrines. Stone has been useful in a fight and while supposedly on pilgrimage has done little to warrant my attention. The priest that sent him on this pilgrimage should be cited, I have never once heard of our clergy sending our faithful, new to the fold or not, on some quest to receive healings or other blessings. It is, however, completely within reason to send the Purified on a pilgrimage for spiritual examination or to do work in the name of the Flame. Kurgar…he’s useful…in a fight. Cedric has proven himself to be a worthy leader. He has been able to keep the charter’s goals above his own or the rest of the party’s. I respect that devotion to the mission. It’s a shame that he continues to follow an antiquated philosophy. I’ve already discussed faiths with him and he is unyielding. I respect that, anyone with flimsy beliefs is not to be trusted.