King of the Stolen Lands

Adra's Journal: Session 6
Session 6: Cold and Unnerving

Session 6: “Cold and Unnerving”

From the journal of Adra Kellen:

Nymm 18, 817
Bank of the Skunk River, The Narlmarches
Evening

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
Morning

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
Evening

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
The Narlmarches
Afternoon

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
Grissom’s Shack
Evening

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
Early Evening-Dusk

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
Evening

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
Evening

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
Morning

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
Afternoon

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.


Lharvion 4
Fort Serenity
Evening

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
Evening

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.


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Report 1 - S. Anitah
The (Potential?) Future Allies of Rhestilor

Rhaan, 818, Report 1

I’ve spent most of the past two weeks en route to the Halcyon, capital city of Miron. The countryside essentially what one would expect in a burgeoning nation—empty and covered in nature. After several days of travel along the South Rostland Road, the Lions and I arrived at the small town of Leveton. Though nothing more than a glorified trading post, Leveton boasts an impressive road system and appears to be growing quickly. I suppose this shows good progress for the town that serves as the gateway to Miron.

We attempted to move on to Halcyon shortly after arriving but were waylaid by a rather unnatural rain storm. The storm seemed to gather suddenly and last far longer than expected. I can only imagine that some terrible curse or plague was to blame. The rain ceased almost as suddenly as it came. The unpredictability of this weather is somewhat unnerving and will likely prove problematic for the region’s economy. The damage done by the rain was more notable when I arrived in Halcyon. Several of the city’s buildings had been entirely destroyed and numerous others were damaged. I’m not entirely sure that the damage is really a loss—the structures still standing are far superior in both their construction and appearance.

The Council of Miron has built an impressive social structure given their meager resources. It seems that they’ve managed to force the vermin and renegades of the land into useful mechanisms: The exiled Dwarves are used for architecture, the Kobolds have been civilized (sort of) and used for sanitation. It has also been implied that those who cannot be converted to the cause are either banished or wiped out. In this case it seems that the lords of Miron have followed the more traditional methods.

I must say I admire the conviction of Baron Fellstorm, he does seem to lead by example and is more than willing to throw himself into the fray to protect his subjects. His people do seem to love him for that. I’m less certain about other aspects of his character though… He seems rather friendly with his ale and the local brothel workers. Despite these potential flaws, I find him to be a generally pleasant and reasonable individual.

I’m not really sure what to say about the ambassador. Eccentric would be unkind and disjointed would not really do him justice. I have had little direct contact with the man, though for this I’m thankful. He seems to have an unreasonable attachment to mundane trinkets and he walks around in the guise of a well-known criminal, the Stag Lord. As far as I can tell, he’s only with them for the payoff. I would not trust him.

The council inquisitor is a fascinating individual who shares an appreciation for more civilized things. She seems to have more sense than the rest of the council.

I anticipate further and more detailed reports to follow.

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Kurgar’s Musings – Wandering The Hinterlands Alone

It’s good to see that our long rest in Halcyon has been moderately productive. Having spent the past year building an established village, I’ve recently heard rumblings of recidivism. One would think that publicly beheading one fool who didn’t understand the concept of community would put paid to that kind of crap. Looks like it’s time to take up the axe, don the black cloak, and start strolling through the city and outlying villages again.

I wandered north to one of the wee hamlets. The hard working farming folk there had visitors from the local tinkers, and one hot-head too deep in his cups began fomenting rebellion and sedition. I had dressed as a cloaked laborer and simply listened calmly (I’m sure Adra would be surprised) as the Strigani fool boasted and capered. I finally asked him what he’d do if Halcyon’s Black Axe were here.

His youthful face twisted into a sneer “I would shorten his beard by a headlength.”

The look on his face was priceless as I pulled the Black Axe from beneath my cloak and slammed it loudly on the table. The din of conversation died suddenly, and I told him “Here’s your chance, boy.”

Now several of my companions may consider me a bloodthirsty sort of fellow, and I’ll admit to a perverse pleasure in combat, but the boy should’ve walked away. I would have let him. Too much cheap wine, too many of his friends watching, and too much bravado…

The punk Strigani was fast. In a flash, a dagger was in his hand and he was leaping to knock the Black Axe to the floor so I couldn’t grab it. I rolled backwards with his dive, kicking him over me and rolling into a combat crouch with my battleaxe in one hand and my handaxe in the other.

The fool tumbled across the floor and sprung upright quickly. He grinned broadly as we both heard the clang of the Black Axe striking the floor.

“Walk away, boy. This is the first and last warning you’ll ever get.”

What happened next was pure stupidity. I could’ve told you exactly what he was going to do by his second step. It was obvious the fool had never fought anyone armed with axes. He was telegraphing every move and foolishly assuming that axes need broad swings.

I assumed The Mountain Holds stance as he attempted to bob and weave in front of me tossing his dagger from hand to hand. Better footwork might have saved him, but by the time he was in position, I had flicked out with the handaxe wrong-footing him. As he was spinning away to avoid the feint, a twist of my wrist drove the battleaxe slicing up into his left armpit. Against an armored opponent the move would have been impractical and woefully ineffective, but against this fool’s silk shirt it was lethal. His momentum worked against him as he slid along the edge and I continued to lifted the axe deep into his body.

The boy screamed, his left arm nearly severed, hanging by a tendon or two. Blood jetted from wound and quickly soaked into the sawdust coating the floor. His Strigani friends were stunned by how fast the fight ended, and by the time they leaped to the fool’s aid, he was shivering from blood loss and pain. Whimpers and screams filled the air. I could tell by his waxy pallor and the way they squeamishly tried to wrap his shoulder that the fool would be dead in a matter of minutes. Cedric’s healing powers might have saved the boy, but he wasn’t there and mercy would have sent mixed messages. The boy had to die painfully and brutally.

Squatting, I slid the handaxe into a loop on my hip and grabbed a handful of sawdust to clean the blade of my battleaxe, then slid it into the other loop at my hip. Grabbing the haft of the Black Axe, I spun quickly and brought it up from the floor, over my head, and down savagely across the fool’s throat. His friends dove and scattered as the singing curve of black iron struck home; the bravo’s severed head bounced off the floor and splattered blood across them all. Whistling air from the cut windpipe was the only sound in the room.

Flicking gore from the edge of the Black Axe, I roared: “Sedition will not be tolerated. Rebellion will not be tolerated. If you don’t want to be here you can leave, BUT BY ARAWAI’S MUDDY TWAT, I WILL HAVE ORDER OR HEADS WILL FUCKING ROLL!”

Silence and the coppery scent of blood reigned as I slowly strode to the door and out into the night.

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Adventure Log – Session 11: Pirates and Bat Caves

Returning the settlement back to normal has been quite the experience. The storm collapsed the roof of a obfuscated tunnel system connecting the cellar of the fortified abbey to a hidden underground cave. The bandits that once occupied the area evidently either had ties to a pirate operation, or were running one from the hidden local.

The newest member in our adventurer is an imbedded ambassador sent, I am sure, to assess our capabilities and insure we remain benign.

We found a cavern containing a house, a warehouse, a kennel, a dock, and a sloop. This cavern was inhabited by less than a dozen hostile pirates. A skirmish ensued. The Earl was nearly slain, and our ranks nearly routed if not decimated.

Tomorrow we take count of the plunder.

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Pilgrimage Journal 4 Missing Pages

*The following pages are a part of Pilgrimage Journal entry 4 and have fallen out of the journal, please return fold the pages and return them to the book in their proper spot after reading.

My stomach growled with hunger, it seemed time had gotten away from me. I asked Archimedes about food and if there was a larder or mess tent or something. He pointed out a pig roasting in the other room. At first I thought that it would have only been a perk of being an inside bandit, instead of the folks we were dispatching. You know…. The ones they send out, I don’t know why exactly. I guess I just didn’t expect them to take that well of care of one another. Should have realized better though, if you’re gonna keep an army loyal, you should start by keeping their bellies full.

The thing smelled wonderful, I ripped off a piece and ate it happily, sharing with Morgan. I didn’t feel it was right for me to be enjoying this though, while the others were possibly hungry. Thinking about my travelling companions, I doubted that Adra would eat it, something about ripping off a hunk of hog and eating next to bandits screamed “undignified.” [Scratch out of Stone changing his words.] Flame preserve me I actually hear it, sounded like a mix of a stern mother and steel bending under stress. Now that I think about it maybe the owl bear just let out an aptly timed cry, but at the moment it was Adra yelling at the idea of eating the pig. Kurgar would have found the pig to eat on his own if he wanted, or just fought one of the bandits and taken their food. Boris, pft he can go hunt. Maybe with the pig killed and cooked already he might be able to handle it on his own and not tell Adra to put an arrow in something for him. That left Cedric. I ripped off the snout of the pig and gave it to Morgan. Told him to deliver it to Ced and chuckled to myself at him calling himself Sniff. Paladins really can’t lie can they? I’ll have to work on that with him when we have some down time.

Morgan returned to the forge a few minutes later with Cedric in tow. He saw the job I had done with the armor, he was beaming with pride. Like I was his kid and I managed no to shit my pants for the first time. Shit being the key word there, at least on a scale from water logged shit to Enchanted Dwarven mail, shit is how I would describe the armor.
We exchanged a few words, and I pointed him at the pig and busied myself about the forge. Taking inventory of what they had, enough to equip at least ten men, twenty if you send ten up on walls and they don’t care much about shooting a friend.

I made my rounds every now and again, made sure everyone was being cook, not gonna blow our cover. Adra for the most part sat and watched. I had seen the look before but don’t quite know how to describe it. A cat watching a mouse hole seems apt on the surface, but she wasn’t waiting to kill, or not just kill. She was somewhere between a fox scouting a chicken coup and a smart crow a customizing itself with a stupid child.

Boris stood out like a sore thumb trying to watch over Adra. I wonder if he has feelings for her. I am used to seeing Ced chase his infatuations. Maybe a hunter stalk the prey slow, watch it? This could be why when he hasn’t tried to get us to all go on any hunts, but he has urged Adra to take shot at wild game. Like that deer she so half heartedly lobbed an arrow at. It is not quite the warm love that Quintus showed for Ophelia, or even his grandfather perusing his grandmother.

Cedric was up above making talk with Arcanos.

Kurgar seemed to be making friends the best way he could. He was sitting away from the crowd smoking a pipe. I only took notice of him because one of the bandits was grousing to himself about a dwarf and a pipe.

Morgan and I ate, and went back to the forge. A fat thing named Noree found its way to the
forge and well if I weren’t so happy to be working on the leathers would have annoyed the crap out of me.

Morgan was squawking and I had armor to make so I just used that greasy spittle and chunks of hog to grease the metal buckles and loosen the leather…. Wait. That doesn’t make sense… I missed something in there with annoying Noree and Morgan but I lost my train of thought. I’ll add it later if it comes to mind. Any way Cedric came to me, we again had a non-plan plan. Kurgar would start a fight. Boris would release the owl bear he had been obsessing over. When I heard the ruckus, I would join the fray.

The actual hubbub went by pretty quickly and I am not sure which parts I remember, and which were blank spots filled in by the others. I HEARD Kurgar bark a threat at someone, then an awkward silence. I guess the bandits didn’t care much for the guy Kurgar killed in his sleep. Err, the guy was sleeping not Kurgar sleep murdering. I made my way closer not wanting to charge in and not have a fight going on.

Then I heard the scream, later I learned that it was an owl bear. Boris had antagonized the animal and The Staglord. You know before that night I would have bet money that a man shot through the heart with an arrow from less than five feet would be able to let out a yell before dying, especially one so prolonged. The second arrow I’m told left him silent. That started the scuffle.

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Only Horrible Things In the Green Yonder

Only Horrible Things In the Green Yonder

     We all got together late in the morning to head back out into the forested area in which we did not search prior. There was a mix of emotions going on during the ride out. Adra on one end seemed almost happy. If she was able to display such a thing. I spotted her writing “Almost finished in this forsaken land” in her journal when I passed by her briefly. Boris was very excited to head back into the forest, hoping that he could find more game to test his abilities on and give further praise to his god. Me and Stone were just silent for most of the ride there. Him drinking his usual amount and then some to cope with the recent events. Me? I did not feel like taking one sip at all. And Kurgar. Well…Kurgar was Kurgar. Hard to really pinpoint anything else with him.

     We traveled for a whole day and made it to the forest edge as night was beginning to fall. Upon entering the forest, a cold sensation ran up my spine and kept making me feel uneasy for the rest of the night. Setting up camp, Boris said he wanted to head off to find us some food for the night. He has been saying that for a while now. We shall see about that.

     Stone was getting the fire started as I was sitting slumped against a tree, re-reading my sister’s letters with my ever burning torch when Adra snuck up beside me. She peered down at me with that unnerving, calculating, chilly expression. “I have not seen you take to drink all day” she said. “Congratulations. Pointing out the obvious apparently is another of your many skills” I replied in jest She just kept staring at me and the look on her face became a tad softer. Softer like steel wool turning to sand paper but still a noticeable change.

     “Look something is bothering you. That much is easy to see. Please. Get better.” I was shocked. Did she…act in a caring manner? “Look Adra, I appreciate your concern it is ju-” is when she cut me off. “I need to know your head is in this. You are the closest thing to a leader in this group and it would be a liability if you are not on top of things.” Yup. That sounds more like the Adra I was familiar with. I put my notes away as I noticed her slowly beginning to angle herself to try and catch what I was reading. I got up and patted her on the shoulder and nodded. “My head is here.”

     We spent the next hour or so doing what we usually do. Kurgar sat by himself and sang in that gravely voice of his. Stonehands and I went over the many, many possibilities of what we could do when we finish our service to the Sword Lords and other matters such as family. Adra just jotted down on her journal as per the usual. It was in a brief moment where everything became silent and there was a loud crashing through the camp. An elated Boris came through the brush, with another man beside him, both with ropes over their shoulders carrying a large, dead bear.

     “I brought you all dinner!” Boris loudly proclaimed. Kurgar seemed happy at this as he quickly replied to Boris’s claim with “Yup….you sure did….” and made his way towards the unknown man that came into our camp. Boris went on to the group about introducing the man. “Yes this fine gentleman is Ellios. He helped assist me in capturing this beast.” The man in question was about as tall as me and even though had the dressings of a woodsman, he had a way and look to him that suggested another lifestyle. “Kurgar. Well met again” said Ellios as he and Kurgar locked in a very long handshake and stare. Huh, Kurgar has an old friend it seems. Did not think he had any..

     Stonehands cautiously approached the dead grizzly and arched an eyebrow. “Just making sure…when I bite into this thing, its not gonna turn into a naked priest is it?” I couldn’t help but laugh as everyone except Stonehands and Ellios joined in. Boris turned to the Ellios and just patted him on the shoulder. “It is an inside joke. If you knew, you too would find it amusing.” Ellios just stood there unsure exactly how to respond. “You never gave me a response. I don’t wanna eat a naked old dude” Stonehands went on. “Do not worry Stoney, Boris will have the first bite, just to make sure.” He looked up at me and shook his head. “That doesn’t prove anything to me” he said seriously.

     Ellios was courteous and introduced himself to everyone. Seemed like a decent fellow, though you can never be to sure. I shook his hand and try to pick up anything about his character but could not find anything wrong so to speak but something about him just made me unsure of what to make of him. Regardless, Kurgar knew him, he helped bring in food, and already was working with Boris in divvying up the bear meat for the party. Plus Adra did not let out a feral scream, spew out lines pertaining to The Flame and put two arrows in his back. So all seemed fine.

     The journey in was for only a day but with everything that was weighing on my mind, it made it seem much longer than it had been. I thought with a full meal brought to me by a successful hunt from Boris and a good nights sleep, I could feel a bit more vigorous the next day.

     Well after a night of trying to sleep, it seems I would not be getting that vigor I wished to seek. It is why I began to hate the forest. For one, the noise the whole night was unbearable. I could sleep through almost anything but last night was…ugh. We all in the party discussed that we swore that it sounded like trolls mating. Or trolls mating with giants. Or some horrible monstrosity mating with another monstrosity. I am one to never go against lustful desires. Though if there is another incident of a trolls nearby having another night of doing squat jumps in the cucumber patch, while I am trying to sleep, I will seek them out personally and toss a flaming bottle of whiskey on them. Grumble grumble grumble….

     The other reason is that the mark of fey trickery returned upon me, even though I thought to have shaved it off prior. The green fur it seems was not something I could easily remedy with cold iron. Stonehands however had his ears return as well. I in either shame or narcissism, your pick, covered myself up completely in my full plate. Green did not suit me well. Stonehands however seemed to enjoy his woodland look. Though Kurgar and Adra mocked him, it did nothing to deter his cheeriness of his appearance.

     “What are you gawkin at boy” Stonehands said to Boris. Boris just kept smiling, seemingly on the verge of laughter just looking at Stonehands. “You…look small enough to fit into a trap. I do not think you would make a good stew though” replied Boris. Stonehands squinted his eyes at Boris and began to slowly back away from him. “You best let your eyes wander elsewhere. You ar startin ta freak meh oot.” Boris just smiled and walked away. “I was only having fun with you Mr. Bloodbeard.” Stonehands just stood his ground for a moment trying to look intimidating as Morgan was playfully gnawing on the re-sprouted bunny ears. “Dat mon gives me da willies sumbtimes” I heard him mutter.

     We traveled deeper into the forest when Boris began to pick up tracks. He started to chatter on about the great Tuskgutter that was spoken of back at Oleg’s. That he believes those tracks to be the same of said creature. Boris with this now on his mind, began to move with alacrity, with a new hunting target on his mind. I am not all for hunting game but if this boar was a nuisance to the area then it seemed like something we should finish up anyways. After a whole day and night and another day of tracking we finally came to a dead stop to the suspected area in which Tuskgutter was.

     The area itself seemed…desecrated. Like walking on unhallowed ground. Dead shrubbery everywhere, giant hollowed out trees, and no sound of forest creatures at all. Simply put, the area in which we now stood, seemed entirely devoid of life. There was a giant area with tons of pine trees which made it seemed to lead to a small cave entrance. Boris wanted to search ahead to see if there were any more tracks and further clues of this boar.

     I shook my head and urged Boris to slow down as I drew my blade. This did not feel right. There was something else here besides a boar. I obviously was not the only who picked up on it. Adra was looking around everywhere, even eying the tree lines and whispering to herself. Stoney just looked around cautiously and put Morgan back into a saddle bag as he started walking towards me. The oddity of it all was Kurgar’s reaction. The man who I had briefly come to know as a fierce, unrelentingly brutal warrior turned almost as pale as the moon.

     He was stepping away from the forest made entrance, almost scrambling backwards, muttering to himself “Not again..” while breaking out into a cold sweat. I tried to urge him to come forward and what was the matter with him. Then I heard the shrill of a monster. Adra fired into the tree line as something dark and fast blurred from above as it made its way toward the cave. We yelled out to Boris but it was to late. This..thing descended upon him from above, driving what appeared to be a giant curved blade straight through his back and toss him like a ragdoll.

     Boris’s blood gushed out and he was sent flying, smacking against a pile of rocks, I assumed him to be dead. Most men taking that sort of hit would kill them. We all looked in awe for a moment as the creature turned to face us. It was indeed Tuskgutter. This however was no mere boar. Its mouth split open in a scream that opened into three seperate mandibles. The aforementioned tusks looked as if they were razor sharp blades them self. Then, just for a moment, I caught a glimpse of something moving behind the demon boar. It was Boris, slowly getting to his feet, spewing blood. Still alive. Tough bastard. The boar heard the rusting of movement and turned towards Boris. I am sure with the intent to finish the job.

     Boiling hot hate ran through me as I let out a scream towards the beast while banging on my shield, trying to draw its attention. My yell managed to distract the boar for only a moment when Stoney managed to find a way to quickly get to it’s side and pierce it with his fancy sounding spear. Adra sent an arrow flying and struck the same moment Stoney struck. The thing was, even though it did pierce the boar, it did hurt the boar. That mattered very little. The boar did not bleed the standard crimson liquid. Instead it’s blood was more viscous and black. Ichor. Crap. Nobody mentioned demon as one of its traits in the bounty flier. Might have been useful to know.

     The boar stood there for a moment with its small beady eyes locked onto mine as its wound looked to be sealing up rather fast. The horrid beast let out a primal scream as it came bounding towards me, crushing dead logs along the way. There was a tree partially in between us. After that the tree was gone, as Tuskgutter burst through and shattered the hallowed elm, sending splinters and chunks everywhere while slamming me with great force. I managed to ready my shield and brace myself for impact. Even so the beast nearly took my off my feet, which I was lucky that there was a boulder behind me to keep my footing braced against.

     The next few moments of the fight were a bit of a blur. I caught a glimpse of Boris coming back to the group, with his fingers in his wounds, with a white light emanating from them. Adra yelled out to use cold iron against this thing. No problem for me. Darius here was cold iron but regardless, I had at the moment, a burning conviction that would rend any manner of foul foe. My sword cut across the beast’s side, melting it open easily as a hot knife through snow, as the wound bubbled and hissed. Kurgar finally joined in the fray as Adra’s arrows were finally sinking in the creature and hurting it. It began to look weakened and haggard and with seemingly a final effort it lunged forward at me once more. This time one of its tusks went under my shield and through the side of my armor in which the small openings are.

     Feeling flesh tear, cutting through my ribs and into my side was horrible yes. It is something I have however grown accustomed too. What came next was worse. This thing must have some evil taint that it tried to afflict me with, as the corners of my eyes began to grow dim. For a brief moment it felt like as if I were drowning, that there was an incoming darkness ready to quelch my mind. Then the darkness was dispersed, by an illuminating bright gold light. My mind felt that it would remain at piece. Still, there was the matter of the big gushing wound in my side.

     While trying to stave off even more of Tuskgutter’s attacks, I felt the usual holistic magic of Boris wash over me and help slow down the bleeding drastically. I had enough enough to make one last stand. After I struck the boar once more, I saw Stoney rumbling from behind the thing, leaping off the stump of the shattered tree. He now had his cold iron axes in his grip as he came down with a baleful blow into the boar’s spine. The creature let out one last screech as most of its body began to melt and sink into the ground, leaving only a few of its bones and its skull behind.

     The group stood there for a moment breathing heavily, in a bit of shock of what we just had witness to. I healed myself up with Boris checking in on me and the others to see if they were ok. Funny, the man was gored and he was asking others if he was ok. Well I was struck to but at least I wasn’t nearly disemboweled like him. “Bloody hell….what is something of Xoriat doing in these parts?” mumbled Kurgar to himself. We all turned to look at Kurgar and asked how he knew what this was. He explained in sparse detail that one of his mercenary platoons stumbled upon something related to this and…it ended horribly. Even with Tuskgutter dead, he still looked quite shaken. Even the toughest of men can be stirred by an evil presence.

     While Kurgar explained the bit he knew, Boris was already beginning to tie up Tuskgutters head to his horse Panther and went about searching the area. “Xoriat, that is a hell of a plane to be merging into with the things out here” said Adra. “Um..what is Xoriat?” I spoke up. Adra rolled her eyes for a moment. “You just ever fight a demon or something from the realm of madness” she asked. “I have no clue how I can tell if something came crawling out of some realm of madness. Though yes I have fought a few demons” I replied to her. “So you didn’t know that some of them come from Xoriat?” she said back. I just shrugged at her and responded dryly. “I never had the chance to ask them where they where from.” Adra was about to go on with what I was sure to be a lengthy and educating speech on this realm she spoke of when we heard Stonehands and Boris calling for us.

     We rushed deep into the cave entrance and peered inside to find a whole new level of strange and horrible. Inside Stonehands and Boris were pointing to the walls. Carvings that looked cult related and symbols drawn in old blood adorned the walls. There were several bodies strewn about on the cave floor. Judging by the size, some of the bones be children. The whole area set my head off and gave me a chill. “I don’t think I need to say it out loud but this place and the bodies need to be burned.” Everyone gave a nod and set about it. Adra began pulling out her holy sigils and started to read a passage from what I am sure was a Silver Flame manuscript, we began to see Boris collecting bones in a bag.

     “These bones ain’t for lootin kid” as Stonehands approached Boris. “I will just collect everyone and bury them in a place that is more acceptable, is all” our cleric responded. “Boris we know you mean well but these people will get the rest they deserve. Let Adra finish up and we will give them and this place a well needed send off.” Boris just looked around with a touch of despondency and gently put the bones from the bag into a neat pile and whispered a prayer. All of us cleaned up and torched the inflicted area and the effect was the same as when we sanctified Fort Serenity (which by the way is what I had been calling it for a few days when it was brought up). A natural calm began to be felt and slowly you could hear birds chirping in the distance. The sun shone in in a bit brighter through the trees and a gentle wind picked up, carrying away the dead leaves. A whole new start to this patch of land.

     We all just sat and rested before we headed out further to make sure nothing nearby was the same. Usually Kurgar after a fight has a slight smug look of superiority. Or is proudly sharpening his axes as if congratulating himself on a job well done. He usually does or shows some way, in his own little mannerisms that he enjoyed a battle. What I saw was him sitting alone on a stump, trying to light his pipe. Trying to light his pipe. He was still pale and his hands were shaking. He stopped and seemed to take a few deep breaths while resting his hands. I approached him, held my hand out for his matches. He just glared at me for a moment but I gestured once more, reassuringly. He shook his head and slapped the matches in my hand as I lit one up and assisted him.

     “Remember back when we first started, I said I didn’t come in these damn forests?” I sat down next to him trying to be of slight comfort, to listen to him, to try and be a good ally. When I did, he got up, walked away from me and started to pace. “I vaguely remember you saying something like that” I spoke. “Well if you weren’t such a drunkard like your pet dwarf you would do well to remember all the wise things I say.” His nerves were slowly returning as the shaking wasn’t as noticeable. “Well I have not drank anything in a while. So…go ahead.” Sometimes trying to be supportive with Kurgar was pulling teeth. I just grit my teeth and try to be diplomatic for my party member.

     “Bandits, drug dealers, murderers, scum, whatever, that is my thing. This..I am not entirely a fan of. Only horrible things out in the green yonder.” I got up off the stump, feigned a smile and chuckled. “Well then, hopefully this was the worst the forest could throw at us.” Kurgar put out his pipe and started to put everything away. He shook his head and just stormed past me. “Yea, well, I highly doubt that….”

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Adventure Log – Session 10: I will never understand dwarves

There has been an unseasonable amount of rain that lead to record flooding. The farmers guild procured several scrolls of dominate weather, and in an attempt to bolster the crop yield summoned more rain that was warranted. I will suggest that we hire a mage to handle such things in the future.

In the torrential downpour and the resulting cacophony the town guard was overworked to begin with. Then we had two murders: that of a shepherd boy and that of a barmaid. The only witnesses to the vicious killings were the washed tracks and the sheep.

The tracks were quite peculiar. They could have been from the worg we have a bounty on, a mad druid, or a werewolf. I head out to collect the shepherd boy’s sheep, and sent word to a local druid that his animal speaking services will be required. Unfortunately for the plan, but fortunately for the town, the werewolf surfaced.

There was a long and exhausting battle consisting of a chase though town. We managed to down the werewolf in an oddly built cistern, built and hidden in a unremarkable alleyway. I will never understand dwarves.

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A Turning Point

A Turning Point

     Akiros, Topper and I spent that whole first day alone taking care of the bodies, some vomit (thanks Stone, didn’t have enough to clean up already) and the largest puddles of blood to clean up. Soaking it up with straw made it easier and would could then just toss it in with the mound of burning bandits. Stone before he left managed to skin the owl bear, so I managed to leave out the hide for him while we were away. I did not know much but I followed his instruction to the word, not wanting to face his ire when he returned. It was odd as little we talked, we functioned just fine as it appeared we were all on the same page. We worked endless for what seemed like hours until we actually had a chance to sit down and chat.

     It was there eating rabbit stew around the bonfire when Akiros actually started a conversation with me. “So. Dol Arrah huh? I am guessing you still favor her?” he said pointing at my painted shield. I just sat there in slight awe he knew of the symbol and it hit me. That he could have called me out at any time when I walked up to those walls pretending to be a bandit named Sniff and possibly gotten me killed. Before I could respond he just snorted a small laugh. “Yea I knew off the bat you were no bandit. That is what your thinking right?”

     “Yes, sort of. I mean I could have simply said that I killed a knight and took his shield if it came to you trying to insinuate I was in fact a knight.” Akiros just started to shake his head while chowing down on his stew. “I do not think a man named Sniff would be good enough to kill a knight of Dol Arrah. Heh. Seriously and Sniff was a dead giveaway you weren’t a thug.” Topper and him chuckled a bit to which I simply smiled at the notion. Maybe Stoney was right, I needed to get better at lying. “Usually bandits have stupid names so I picked a stupid name” I replied. “Oh I dunno. Not many bandits have stupid names. Not many around here anyways. Well…except Far Nori” said Akiros.

     “So onto the subject of Dol Arrah. How did you know? This seems like…far land from her influence.” Akiros finished his bowl and sat back in his chair, staring at me, seemingly collecting his words. “I was one of her knights. A long time ago. In a place far from here. That…is how I know.” Heavens of all the people I could run into out here into the deep unknown, a former knight of my Goddess. This surely cannot be a coincidence. Could it? Topper Red let out a gasp and picked up book and began to hastily write in it. “Ok you two go on. My my this is good stuff” he said while scribbling fast. Not as fast as Adra but still pretty fast.

     Me and Akiros gave an indifferent look towards Topper as we resumed our conversation. He ran down how he came to fall and ended up in these lands. He observed that at one point he believed the Stag Lord could be a good leader and maybe something would come of him following the now deceased lord. “It is a decision, amongst many other decisions that I regret and I have taken no joy in” he uttered. Time stood still for a moment and all faded to gold. “Leave him. Like he left me” I heard my goddess scowl. “I really believe..” and she cut me off. “Listen well my dear Cedric. This man has ruined himself and betrayed me. Do not think of redeeming this one in my name. I will not have him back.” This was concerning. I do not ever recall my goddess being so displeased.

     I had to watch what I said and chose my words carefully. “What I wanted to help this man atone? I mean he did not fall completely. There is still hope it seems for this one.” The gold around me grew brighter as her tone rose. “I said I would not have him back” she said calmly. “Right ok then. What if I help him absolve all of things he has done and put him on the right path, not for you, but just for the common good?” The gold began to recede to it’s normal brightness for a moment before she spoke again. “Do as you wish then. I am not begging for this one to be returned though” as my surroundings faded back into view.

     Akiros had this nonplussed look on his face for a moment. “Where did you go just now?” I looked at Topper who seemingly had no idea what happened for he was still writing diligently in his book. “Ugh..what do you mean?” Akiros cocked his head to the side. “I saw you move your lips a little and your eyes turned into a slight shade of gold. What the hell was that about?” Dammit. I thought I usually closed my eyes when that happened. Oh crap. I tried to remain calm and try not to come off like a crazy man. “She was…uh speaking to me just now” I replied. “What makes you so special that she talks to you? I knew a dozen others that were lucky to even just feel a slight presence. You are telling me you have a full on conversation with her?”

     “You do not need to believe me. I am telling the truth.” He just stared at me for a moment unsure what to think. “Well it seems that you believe you are telling the truth at least. She say anything about me?” I tried to avert the man’s eyes who now looked saddened. Like an ashamed man. A man who lost everything. It kind of reminded me of the look in Stoney’s eyes the night he was explaining the story behind his exile. “That was between me and her. I apologize.” He nodded his head respectfully. “Understand. Her words should be kept to those she trusts to speak it to.”

     A thought popped in my head. “It just occurred to me. Why are you two still here. I half expected you two to make an escape before everyone awoke. Topper just shrugged his shoulders as he kept writing and Akiros did the same shrug. “I assumed we were prisoners and would be held to some punishment or trial at some point.” I thought about it for a while. Topper seemed well enough for a bandit and Akiros took me as a man who lost his way. “How about this. I will pardon you two if you swear fealty to me. I have many a great plans for this place when matters settle. I am no Stag Lord. I am far better than that.”

     “Why would I swear fealty to you. I do not even know you” chirped Topper. “Fine. I will see to it then Inquisitor Kellen handles your sentencing when she returns." The blood drained from his face at the mention of Adra. “You know what you seem like a pretty nice guy and could handle yourself pretty well. I also hope you have many stories to tell me for my play writes too. So uh…sure. How does this pledging work?” I stood up and drew my sword. “You must hold out your hand and give unto me your ring finger, as proof of your allegiance” I said. Topper scuttled backwards a few feet. “He…Hell no!” Me and Akiros started to laugh at Topper. Akiros got up and held out his hand towards me. “If you do what you say you are going to do, then I will be your sword. You have my oath.” I put Darius back and grasped Akiros’s hand. “It is good to have you back on the path” I said.

     “Wait…so…I do not need to lose anything” questioned Topper. I rolled my eyes, turned towards the scribe and held out my hand. “No. Of course not. That is just silly. You do need to start up another batch of stew. We have a lot of work ahead of us." I never got a handshake or oath of fealty from Topper but I did get the impression he did not want to upset or cross me. That he was a man who whether it was fear that kept him restrained or honesty, that he was true in his word that he would act in accordance with me.

     So there for a few days we did our best to clean up the place. The Stag Lord’s room had a nostalgic scent of heavy booze and blood. Darius kept telling me how the smell reminded me and him of the good old says. We went back down into the basement and took note of everything they had. Shockingly there a surplus amount of goods down there. Ranging from furs, jewelry, weapons, armor, everything. There had to be thousands of thousands of gold worth of items. I talked about possibly selling this stuff to start on making repairs and using it to help people. Akiros seemed fine with the idea as Topper seemed happy that he was even alive at all. So he obviously did not want to say anything against it.

     About four days passed since my group left before they finally returned including Kurgar in tow. I happily greeted Lt. Garress who was with them and welcomed Jhod, thanking him for his arrival. Boris smiled and patted me on the back as he walked past me to tie up the horses and Adra just had wide eyes as she looked at me. “What? You are staring.” She glanced inside to see Akiros and Topper moving the treasure from the basement to one of the rooms on the first floor. “You….are alive. I did not think you would make it. What are they doing?” I smiled back at her welcomed her. “Oh come on now, like anything would happen to me here. Oh they are moving tons of valued goods up from the basement. There is a lot there. Don’t worry I wrote everything down but you can check my notes here and verify if you-” I said. She took my little note book where I had all the items written down and walked straight towards the two reformed bandits. “Oh and they are pardoned by the way. They are not to be messed with” I yelled to her.

     I saw Stoney near the wagon tying up the horses and patted him on the head, welcoming him. “Please tell me you picked up some wine. Oh how I want some delicious wine” as I searched the wagon. I found some bottles and was ready to pop one open there and then I saw Stoney stare back at me. He had somber expression etched into his face. His tone was very serious. “Kid, you might need that wine. We gotsa talk.” No. Please do not tell me my fears where right.

     We walked hurriedly into the Stag Lord’s former room for privacy. He handed me the letters, to which I kept rereading, each time more carefully then the last. I sat down on the bed and buried my face into my hands. Stone plopped himself up on the bed and patted me repeatedly on the back on the head.

     It was what I feared. My House and thus my family was now at war. They were fighting with the Medvyed House and Cisarovna’s. Our land that we had was once theirs. The Dragon King gave it to us after they took our former homelands to the north and it was what we had since then. From that moment though it was always hostile. Seemingly the Cisarovnas made a bold move. Garress answered in kind not wanting to show weakness it appeared. My brother Randolf led an attack, burned down their ancestral home but suffered grievous wounds and was captured shortly after. This was all written to my by my sister Thessie. Who now at the moment was in Medvyed possession as part of some twisted agreement. Someone had bartered for the release of my brother by giving up my sister to be betrothed by someone in the Medvyed House.

     My brother captured and dying. My sister being traded like she was a ‘thing’. My family at war with Boris’s family and their lord’s house. The pressure behind my eyes and head was building. I did not know how I was going to react. Which startled the ever loving hell out of me and Stoney, when I quickly got up and whipped a few of the Stag Lord’s remaining possessions across the room in a fit of rage. “Woa woa calm down. You do not want them to hear this. Hey, get a hold of yerself!” Stonehands growled to me. He did a small jump and grabbed me by my collar when I went to bend down to pick up something else. “Do not act like a child. Throwing a fit because you are angry. You best get a hold of your calm boy.” I looked at Stonehands expecting him to be angry as his tone. His eyes were close to welling up.

     I slumped down on the floor, against the wall and tried to get a grip. “Stoney, there is something we need to discuss.” I relayed everything to him. How about I wanted to stay here after our charter was finished. I wanted to come back, establish some peace. Hopefully set up a form of civility down here. Also through out all of that, build a place that maybe refugees from the incoming civil war and my family could seek shelter from. I wanted my family safe more than anything else. I told him that if he could stay with me I would help him find a mean to heal his wounds.

     Stonehands stood there for a moment just stroking his beard. “I don think da Church would like it if I disobeyed them. However if I promise to help spread da word here in their name, it shouldn’t be a problem. If they don’t like it though….well…fuck em. You are all I got at this point kid. You and your family. I am not giving that up. For nothing or nobody.” Stonehands sat beside me and popped two bottles of wine, passing one to me. “Here, try and get better.” I had calmed down but I was getting nauseous. My sister…with….them. Was sickening. The fact that they were dangling my most likely dead brother in front of my family made it worse. I gently pushed away the wine bottle that Stoney tried to pass to me. “No thanks Stone. I do not feel like drinking anything right now.” Stonehands I think nearly choked cause he started to wheeze a bit after my comment. “Turning down this? I mean this isn’t the best but it is something. Come on drink with me.” I got up and made my way out the door. “Not now Stone. Not now.”

     I stepped out the door and made my way down the stairs only to turn the corner to suddenly see Adra in my face. She held a curious expression with her head cocked slightly to the side. “Was there something up there?” she asked. “Me and Stone thought we saw rats. Tried to get them. Eh. Another chore for another time” I reply. She kept staring at me as if she were dissecting everything I just said and then went back to that neutral tone of hers. “Well. Yes. Another chore. Speaking of chores, we should continue ours.”

     She talked about setting out to complete the rest of our original intended charter until someone was sent down to investigate. Even though the original goal was to rid the area of the Stag Lord, others remain. That it was significant that we set about the remaining lands to insure the safety of the surrounding areas and gather what information we could. Plus more than anything right now I just wanted to get up and move. Not stay secluded anymore now.

     I passed by the central room to overhear the few of Garress’s men laughing as Kurgar was telling one of his stories. I caught a glance, for only a moment that Kurgar seemed to be in a genuinely good mood as the soldiers listened. It was sort of a nice sight to see the usual crass dwarf in high spirits. As I drew closer while passing by, I got within an earshot of his story. Something about unraveling a thief’s organs out, to string up another man, just to see the look of horror in his eyes. This, while the first man is still initially, if partially alive. Well….no wonder Kurgar was smiling. The soldiers looked like exhilarated children when listening to Kurgar’s grotesque description of the horrible deed.

     I made my way past the room into one of the hallways when I heard the muttering of Boris and Jhod about the undead problem outside. “The priest and I came up with a most splendid plan” Boris said with his ever vigilant smile. I nodded and let him continue. “In their numbers the undead prove a problem, alone not so much. It would be best to simply drag one or two towards us. In which we could then volley arrows and divine light at them. After that it is clean up.” Stonehands appeared behind me, without a sound ever being made. He is getting better at that. “Uh so am I to take it, yur gonna go running out there getting their attention?” Boris pursed his lips and shook his head. “Unfortunately no. As much as I would like to slay the undead up front personally, it would be a detriment to the plan. I need to stay with Jhod to aid him. We are going to use your monkey familiar to draw them out. Like bait so to speak.”

     This made Stonehands eyes completely bug out at the notion of Morgan running into a desecrated cemetery to lure out zombies. “So lemme get this straight. You volunteered my Morgan to this plan without consulting me?” Jhod stepped forward and put his hand on Stonehands shoulder, a formal sign of assurance. “He is small and fast enough that it would seem like the easiest way to lure them. Do not fear. I will personally keep an eye on him at all times.” Jhod reached out and petted Morgan, who was sitting atop Stonehand’s shoulder. Morgan let out a cheerful little sound of the Priest giving him attention. “Face it Stoney, Morgan is fast, small and nimble. Worse case scenario, we get you another Morgan. Not like you are not used to that already” I said. Stonehands glowered at me for a second and cradled Morgan like a baby in his arms. “Come on Morgan, we has works to be done.”

     The plan was simple and effective. Everyone who could use a bow or cast magic stayed atop the walls, striking any undead that drew near. Morgan efficiently plucked one undead away from the group each time, with Stonehands looking on with concern. Boris and Jhod helped in the cleansing of the surrounding area after all was settled and it was only shortly after that everything seemed to brighten up around the old fort. The air seemed a tad more crisp and no longer was there any sense of dread that hung around. All was confirmed with me when slight uneasy sensation I felt in my time there disappeared. We would set out the next day to go forward to finish the last bit of our expedition. I cannot wait to get confirmation from the Sword Lords when all of this is finished. Much work needs to be done here. I wish not tied anymore to their duties.

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Adra's Journal: Session 9
Session 9: Tiressia's Glade and The Scythe Tree

Session 9: “Tiressia’s Glade and the Scythe Tree”

From the journal of Adra Kellen:

Barrakas 11, 818
Narlmarches
Late Afternoon

This morning we discussed the Boggard situation at length with the people of Tatzlford and Cedric assured them that he would protect his lands and people from any threat. I didn’t divulge anything of my conversation with Zat from the night before, or should I say morning. I would have much preferred to sleep in today, especially since we traveled through the woods again.

We have decided to make the best of this outing. We are currently camped in the Narlmarches roughly 6 miles out from Tatzlford. We explored the forest, but mostly stayed to various game trails and what we can only assume is the main trade route from Tatzlford. We are going to need roads if this town is going to succeed. These trails might server fur trappers and hunters but anything over a pack pule will have trouble making it through these cluttered trails.

Hopefully we don’t come across anything else that we can further worsen with our involvement.


Barrakas 12, 818
Tiressia’s Glade
Evening

If we set out to only explore and stay out of other’s affairs, we failed. During our second day of exploration we came across a serene glade that seemed to beckon us toward its beautiful pool of water and picturesque scenery. We entered the glade to find an ancient oak standing at the edge of a pool that held the most crystal clear water that I had ever seen. At its shore a young woman whose skin resembled the color and striations of mahogany and hair like blossoms and the color of autumn sat crying. Cedric went forward along with Stonehands while Boris, Kurgar, and I remained at the edge. Cedric approached and the woman who was clearly a fey creature, a dryad as it turns out, looked upon him with an enthusiasm of someone who had heard of his heroic deeds.

She revealed her name as Tiressia and reviewed our past accomplishments; her encouraged words began to falter as she spoke of a great evil that was coming for her. Cedric asked what the evil was and the dryad painted an image of the land upon the water of the pond. It showed forest, like that which we had seen on many days of exploration. It quickly turned to a desolated land which appeared darker and older than any of the forest we had encountered. There something stirred a creature that resembled a tree, but horrific scythe-like blades jutted from branches that appeared to be arms. The trunk had crude gashes that made up a wicked face, a row of jagged teeth curled in a malicious smile. The dryad seemed to retract from the pond as if she had touched something sharp and pleaded for help and began to fall. Cedric reached out to catch the fey and another entered the glade as if out of nowhere. It was a satyr, a man which had the legs of a goat. The satyr, Falchos, quickly moved to support the wavering dryad and asked if we were really capable of doing what she had asked. It was nearly in unison that we all confirmed we could and would set out immediately.

Falchos comforted the weakened Tiressia and welcomed us to the glade. The glade was alive with the flutter of birds and butterflies and creatures just out of sight. The fey praise us with song and it’s as if the entire glade is alive with song. I’m not sure we hadn’t stepped into Thelanis itself. I am remaining on guard, but there is something supernaturally compelling to this land. I am fighting to keep pen to paper to record this. I have the strongest desire just to recline and rest.


Barrakas 14, 818
Narlmarches
Evening

I can’t believe I am writing this, but I wish I was in the comfort of the Dryad’s glade. The ground is so uneven my cot is continually tottering. My skin is terribly itchy and I am still covered in splinters and thorns. Luckily I brought extra clothing with me on this trip. Those twig creatures were a nightmare.

At about mid-day today we came across an ancient part of the forest. The forest’s canopy was so dense it blotted out the light of day. It was as if we had stepped into night. While the canopy was thick, the forest floor was barren. Any younger tree or shrub was torn from its roots and discarded as a child discards an old toy. The ruin was a sharp contrast from the beauty of the glade from days before. The blighted hollow was hellish, trampled and smashed animals and plant life were strewn everywhere. One of the others pointed out a lone tree that seemed to have an arched trunk and sharp looking branches.

Before we could react to what we had spotted we were attacked from the trampled undergrowth. Twig creatures popped out of the brush and unleashed a torrent of needles and brambles. Just as these creatures attacked, a large shambling tree moved into attack those that had ventured closer to it. Cedric, Kurgar, and Boris were within its range while Stonehands was making his way closer to it. The twig creatures continued to pepper the others while I began to fire arrows at the nearest one. This brought their attention my way. While the others were able to finish one that I had hit, another seemed to step through the brush as if it were doorway, stepping into the brush and exiting elsewhere in a single step. The flame forsaken thing blasted me with a spray of splinters. The pain was excruciating though luckily most of the blast was absorbed by my leather coat and the mithral I wear. Unfortunately, my silk shirt was left in ruin. As I was recovering from the barrage I noticed Boris receive a volley that staggered him and he fell backwards over a fallen tree. I thought for sure he was dead. The spray of blood was visible even in the dark. I tried to get closer to assist the others with the giant tree creature, but was continuously harassed by one of the twig creatures. I had made it to where Boris had fallen and to my surprise he was alive. I reached down and helped him up when the one twig-man I was shooting at vanished. I had asked the flame to heal my own wounds and his during the short respite. He likewise called on his gods to keep us going through the fight. I continued to exchange arrows for slivers with one of the twig-men when I heard the terrible sound of the tree creature dying. The twig-man fired one final barrage at me and vanished. I was so incredibly angry with the blasted little wretches I began to curse them and every evil thing that lived in the forest.

Sometime had passed and I finally collapsed on a giant moss covered log. The others were chopping the scythe-tree apart and Boris began to root around for anything of value. I did my best to heal my wounds and began to pick splinters, briars, and thorns out of my clothing. I took off my coat which luckily had repelled much of the attacks. The briars hadn’t stuck to the leather, but my other clothing was a different story. My silk shirt was in tatters, though the sleeves and back were fine. I tore it off and through it amongst the other ruin. Stonehands was instantly aware of me and gave me the strangest look. I quickly donned my leather coat as his eyes lingered too long for comfort, even though I was wearing my mithral shirt.

We found little of value at the blighted hollow and moved on after an hour or so of rest. We are spending the evening with full watches; I am currently on watch and still picking thorns out of my clothing and hair. I hate this place.


Barrakas 15, 818
Tiressia’s Glade
Afternoon

Apparently we stumbled upon yet another plot. We have returned to Tiressia and informed her that the scythe-tree is dead. We also told her of the creatures we had encountered. She called them ‘Twig Jacks,’ evil creatures that only seek to inflict pain. They certainly do that. Tiressia continued to explain that the fey of this land were in conflict. In a way they were experiencing a civil war of sorts. Good fey vs. evil fey. It was clear that the scythe-tree and the twig jacks were evil, but what about those that cursed Stone and Cedric? Or the ones that Boris encountered? I’m not sure how we can tell. Tiressia certainly seems pure of heart, but what are her other motives? She is currently talking with Cedric and she has pledged her support for our nation and will do what she can to make accommodations for the fey of the forests and the people of our land to live peacefully. I believe we will need to take care of this civil war and evil fey problem before we work on expanding our kingdom too far into the Narlmarches.


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Adventure Log 9 – The Tree Wants to Eat Me

We located a some sort of fey woodland creature made of . . . wood. She looked like a human sized marionette. I was extremely tempted to check for strings, but something compelled me not to. A goatman seems to be the mate of the wooden lady. I wonder what there children would resemble wooden goatmen, if such a union is possible.

Evidently there is a fairy feud going on in the woods adjacent to the kingdom. They warned us that there is a giant tree, that can move, and eat people. Evidently this man eating tree delights in eating the fey on the other side of the controversy. I had questions as to the extent of this trees evil tendencies. The woods where it set up house was overgrown with enormous trees, and the air was rank with rot and the ground beneath my feet felt vile and wrong. The evil infestation was beyond what I had imagined. I cast protective spells on most of the units frontline fighters. I wished for more anti-evil spells in my soul that day.

We located the tree, deep within the blight. I wish I could say I was hard pressed to see something as wickedly evil, but it was certainly a different type of evil than the diseased and demonic boar we faced last year. It had terrifying children. Small stickly things with thorns and spears. They must have used some type of fey magic that caused those thorns to propel themselves at a velocity so that they would rend though a grown man and kill his family behind him.

I nearly died that day, almost killed by a twig thing. By divine intervention I was saved by a fallen tree. I think the tree moved. Perhaps that tree was the last good thing there. I literally owe my life to a tree, not many folks can make that claim. I saved a piece of the tree that fell off in hopes to properly honor it. Perhaps if I become sufficiently potent with the divine I can heal it and thank it for its help. At any rate I noted its location on the map, and placed a series of markers to help me find it.

I have decided to learn how to enchant weaponry with divine fire. My hunting partner, and hopefully more, is exited about the prospect of fire enchanted weaponry to prepare for the troll threat the farmers talk of. I want to see those twigs burned in righteous fire before they grow. I want to see the man eating trees fall by fire crafted of my hand. There is at least one of them out there in the forests, and we need to end it vile existence. Two inhuman beings are now on our most wanted list alongside a human bandit. I should start inquiring about a diviner.

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