After Hours

Antecedents to a confrontation
Compiled from Milan's journal

Salient points: delivered Lord Borkhold’s message to King Hedric, were rewarded by His Majesty and given a new assignment, namely to convince the monastic order of the Silent Ones to join HM’s forces, and moved north from the order’s monastery toward the tower of Renwar Evenhammer the elementalist, recruiting some mercenary assistance along the way.

It’s what happened in between those salient points that’s messed up.

Traveling south from Olaf’s village, we constantly encountered signs of the undead army’s passing: villages stripped not only of life, but of the bodies of the dead. Disconcertingly, something was around, for one morning we found our campsite surrounded by small effigies made of twigs and bark, equal in number to our party. Something other, that is, than the two owlbears that shambled into our camp one night. Then Olaf disappeared, and despite searching, we were unable to find him. We’re not too worried, since we’ve come to believe he was a lot more than he appeared to be. After several days, we reached Corat, the capital city, to find it somewhat savaged by the undead, but mostly intact. Using Lord Borkhold’s credentials, we gained an audience with His Majesty, King Hedric. Having delivered Lord Borkhold’s message, he rewarded us with a pile of loot: enchanted weapons, armor, clothing, and various other items. But rulers being what they are, he “requested” we take on another message delivery for him, the intended recipients being a monastic order known as the Silent Ones, whose monastery is in the mountains northeast of the city, several days’ travel through a thick forest.

Before we set off, we conducted some research on the order and learned that conversation would be greatly facilitated by gifts of a practical nature, so we purchased several dozen pounds of spices, seasonings, and fabric not readily available in the mountains, and loaded it into our wagon. We also stocked up on travel supplies and weaponry. For my part, I managed to find a lightly enchanted mace in the artisans’ quarter. I say “conversation,” but the Silent Ones are not called that for nothing: their members take a vow of silence that actually physically hurts them to violate, so we’re probably going to be doing most of the talking.

Journeying through the forest with a horse-drawn wagon proved slow going, necessitating the clearing of brush, tree limbs, and occasionally small trees. This resulted in our drawing the attention of the local wood elves, who inquired as to our business and then attempted to extract a toll from us, namely a share of the wagon’s cargo. With amazingly quick thinking, Opie pointed out that this would in effect be taking the Silent Ones’ goods, whereupon the elves reconsidered their demand and let us go on our way. They did warn us that the northern stretches of the forest are inhabited by more unpleasant creatures, including goblins and gnolls. We discovered the truth of this two nights later, when a distant tumult of fighting interrupted our evening meal. Lumi, JD, and Opie went to scout and found the site; several gnolls had been killed with large blunt implements.

We encountered the owners of these implements the following morning: a trio of ogres heading south along the river. We were able to mount a hasty ambush and dispatched them with no casualties on our side. The rest of the journey to the monastery occurred without further hostile encounter.

There have, however, been other, rather more disturbing developments, concerning JD and myself. JD has now twice disappeared while on watch. The first time was the night before we entered the forest; Locke found him unconscious on the ground some distance from camp. After he came round, I gave him a quick examination and was unable to find a cause for the unconsciousness, but I did find on his back an extensive network of tattoo-like markings. I pointed this out to JD and we decided to keep this from the rest of the party for now, lest it cause them needless concern. However, several nights later, after we ambushed the ogres, JD went missing on watch again, and this time, he was found sitting cross-legged in a trance with the eviscerated corpse of a squirrel before him and with the squirrel’s innards all over his front. Locke and Opie brought him back to camp and woke me to look him over. When I awoke, I thought it well after dawn, as it was bright as day. When I asked my companions why they had let me sleep so late, they assured me it was still several hours before dawn. I surmise my new sight is a gift from the Lord of Light.

The escalation of JD’s condition convinced me it was time to consult Locke, and that in turn meant informing the rest of the party; so this particular cat is well out of the bag now. But we still have very little idea as to the nature of the cat in question. We decided to keep JD under closer observation during the hours of darkness, and see if we could find anything in monastery’s library when we got there.

As I said earlier, we reached the monastery without further incident; once we came out of the forest and into the foothills, we came upon a trail, and following it brought us to what appeared to be a blank wall in a montainside. Closer examination by Gorbash revealed that there were actually exquisitely disguised windows and a gate set into the rock. So all we could do was knock on the gate; in short order, a small window slid open through which a masked face regarded us impassively. I explained who we were, why we were there, and that we came bearing gifts. The window slid closed and the gate opened, revealing a long, wide corridor. We led our horses down the passage to a large indoor circular courtyard. On a gallery about forty feet up was what appeared to be a large number of the Order’s members. One of their number—I couldn’t really tell which one—called on us to clarify our purpose, and after we had, told us that we would have to bring forth a champion to fight theirs in single combat to the death. Our predictable choice was Gorbash, and a gate in the wall opposite where we had entered opened to admit a tall human, masked and wearing splint armor, and armed with two longswords. On the command of the speaker, the fight began, and one intense minute later, the Silent Ones’ champion lay unconscious and mortally wounded on the ground. I gave the onlookers a few heartbeats to see he was defeated before applying healing, and then turned my attention to Gorbash.

As our champion, Gorbash was granted power to issue instructions to the order, and he told them to join with the king’s forces at Corat City. The order set about their new task with amazing speed, and the bulk of their members marched at first light the next morning, leaving a skeleton crew to manage the monastery. They also left us with the run of the place, and Locke, JD, and Opie spent the next two days scouring the library for information about JD’s tattoos. What they turned up was quite disturbing: the markings are found on persons under the influence or even possession of an evil entity. The influence cannot be removed by removing the markings (which would anyway be an unpleasant option to say the least, given that it would involve flaying the skin from at least a third of JD’s torso). We also suspect it might have been he who constructed the twig effigies we found. For my part, I decided that some divine consultation was in order, so I made my way up a nearby rocky outcropping that commanded a view of the east, and spent the night in vigil hoping to commune with Pelor at dawn. From what I understand, this kind of ritual can normally only be conducted by a cleric of (far) more experience and standing than myself but we are living in interesting times.

Indeed, at dawn, a vision appeared to me: an image of Olaf, made out of radiant fire (we said there was more to that kid than met the eye!). He told me I could ask three questions, which could only receive brief replies.
First I asked whether there was anything we could do to save JD. The answer came that “the first step is to let go of the notion that he can be saved.”
After some thought, my second question was [fill in when I remember – JS]
My third question was whether JD was even what he thinks he is. The answer came “No, and neither are you.”
Then the image of Olaf disappeared and my I made my way back to the monastery to inform my fellows.

I don’t know what all my companions are thinking, but here’s my hypothesis:
The empty space in the pantheon belonged to the god of treachery, known by many names but one of which is “the Lost One.” The fire elemental we encountered bound on the top level of the tower in Borkhold Keep said it recognized JD as “a follower of the Lost One,” but I’m not so sure that assessment is correct. What if the Lost One isn’t actually dead, but hiding? Hiding in mortal form, say in the form of an amnesiac elf? Given the answer to my third question, we have to consider the possibility that JD was never an elf, but a construct created to house the Lost One’s essence, with the vessel being kept unaware of its… passenger in order to aid in the concealment. Why would the Lost One do this? Unfortunately, I have an at best rudimentary grasp of theology, but it seems in character for a god of treachery to cause a global war for essentially no reason.

Three days after our arrival at the monastery, we set off again, heading north along the western side of the mountains on our way to Renwar Evenhammer’s tower. On the third night, we noticed campfires off to our west, and surmised it was the king’s army. Lumi talked an owl into taking a peek for us, and the bird confirmed our suspicions. The next day, we found ourselves traveling through a strip of foothills between the mountains to our right and more forest to our east, and in due course, we arrived at a comparatively large logging town (large for a logging town, that is). From a distance, we could see the gate in its palisade was guarded by soldiers, and drawing closer, I was pleasantly surprised to see they bore the mark of my old company, the Scarlet Sashes! As we reached the gate, however, I was puzzled by the fact that I did not recognize the men, and when I introduced myself as the company’s former healer, they denied that I could be that person, as their current healer (a name also unknown to me) had held that post for years! How could this be?! It’s been barely three months since I took my leave!

I asked whether Captain Gerrod was available, and was directed to the town tavern. Inside, I found the Captain, distinctly older than I remembered him, but he remembered me and greeted me warmly, declaring that it must have been ten years since he’d seen me (ten years?!) but that I didn’t seem to have aged at all. We explained our business in the area, to which he responded that the company (which has grown to half a regiment in the absence; they’ve even acquired a small siege train) was just about done with their contract in town—clearing goblins out of the surrounding forest—and was looking for work. He added that in a war of this magnitude, no man should remain on the sidelines and offered the services of the Scarlet Sashes to create a diversion while we infiltrated Evenhammer’s tower. Since we are envoys of the king, the Captain was prepared to take an IOU on the king’s behalf. Having come to this agreement, we went about acquiring supplies and the following morning, we started on the three-day journey to Evenhammer’s tower, with the 1,500 men of the Scarlet Sashes traveling an hour behind us. When we reached a point a few hours’ march from the tower, we halted and set up camp, then assembled a reconnaissance party (consisting of ourselves, two scouts and Lieutenant Ferenc, the company’s second in command) to scout out the tower. We discovered the tower is quite massive, surrounded by a guard detail of a baker’s dozen of fire elementals (plus one at the tower’s pinnacle), another baker’s dozen of water elementals in the moat surrounding the tower, and many earthen mounds which may be a sign of earth elementals in the ground. Having made our assessment, we withdrew back to camp to draw up our attack plan. We march in the morning.

The trepidation of attempting to infiltrate the tower of a wizard seemingly as powerful as Renwar Evenhammer yet pales next to the possible implications of what’s happening to JD and myself. Is JD the unwitting vessel of the Lost One? What did Pelor’s apparition mean that I’m not not what I think I am? What purpose is served by having me see as if it were broad daylight? And how did I step ten years into my own future?

Ten years. Mother’s going to kill me for not writing all that time.

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Some catching up, and a massive revelation
Excerpted from Milan's journal

It has been some time since I took the time to enter events into my journal, but at last I have an opportunity. After clearing Borkhold castle, we received our reward from Lord Borkhold’s castellan (I know he calls himself “butler” but he is a bit more than that) for doing so, and then spent some time assisting in putting the castle to rights. Various members of our party helped the reconstruction process, while Opie and I took care of consigning the mortal remains of the goblins’ victims to the earth with due ceremony. After a week or so, we were informed of the return of Lord Borkhold himself (not that any of us saw him enter the castle gate) and we were called to see him.

We asked His Grace to speculate about the apparent attempt on his life by means of summoned elementals, and he attributed it to an old rival of his, an elementalist named Renwar Evenhammer. However, as he also explained to us, this assault was but a minor skirmish in a developing war, and not just any war.

There is an open place in the pantheon, and various factions each seek to advance their champion to fill the empty place. These factions are led by powerful beings, some by gods, some by lesser supernatural entities, such as the demon lord who broke out of the cage under Trisk, and some by powerful mortals. These various factions are massing forces to do battle, and the resulting war may lay waste to this world we inhabit and love. And yet, even we we minor mortals, my companions and I, may have a part to play.

First, we must convey word of this war to the king. Then, we must see to Renwar Evenhammer and eliminate him as a player in this conflict. Last, but not least, we must track the demon lord to the mountains north of Littlebrook and similarly deal with him. These are daunting tasks for inexperienced adventurers such as ourselves, but I am confident that we have righteousness on our side, and that Lord Pelor will guide my path.

And so we saddled our horses and packed our wagon and started to make our way south to the capital to warn the king. The journey was fairly uneventful until we started to cross the marshes. First, we encountered a group of undead, skeletons led by some perverted corpse of a warrior who was capable of leeching the very life out of a living being. Fortunately, we managed to finish them off without any lasting harm to our party. I managed to identify some of what was left of their uniforms, a mercenary company long disbanded. Some way down the road, we came upon an abandoned inn, the inhabitants of which appeared to have been slaughtered in their rooms, dragged to the common room, and then raised as undead. There appears to be necromancy afoot in this region. We did find one survivor, a small boy named Olaf, clinging for dear life to the inside of the outdoor jake. He told us he and his parents had been traveling north when the calamity struck. He has family in a village south along the road, so the best we can do is return him to them.

[Later…]

Delivering Olaf to his family is no longer possible. We proceeded south out of the marshes and into hill country. Darkness was falling and a storm was picking up to the north of us, and we hoped we might make it to Olaf’s village, but as we crested the last hill, we were horrified to see the valley in which the village lies lay was covered by the encampment of a huge army. Well, maybe “encampment” isn’t the right word, for there were only a few tents; the actual rank and file troops were just standing in the open in formation. In the falling gloom, we could discern that they were beings that no longer require sleep or shelter: an army of some 50,000 undead!

Clearly, we could not go forward, but with no shelter in sight and the storm bearing down on us from the north, there was nothing we could do but turn east in an attempt to skirt the army. It was around this time that Opie and Locke pointed out that the storm was starting to drop twisting funnels of air, far too many to be natural. The storm itself was the vanguard of an army of elementals! About the same time we noticed this, so did the army of undead, which turned in formation to face north and started advancing up the hill we were on. We egged the horses onward, desperate to get out the way of this clash of armies, but we were intercepted by an advance party of undead skirmishers.

Unable to turn left or right, we engaged them, and I held up my holy symbol and called upon the power of Pelor to drive the undead from us. This was only partially effective against the undead assailing us, but as I continued my prayer, I felt a tingling go my spine and my back, and my holy symbol grew warm as the advancing ranks of the undead army parted and started to flow around us. Sensing that this might be our only protection from being overwhelmed, I feared to do anything but keep on praying. Unfortunately, I had been driving the wagon and without me handling it, the draft horse had stopped. As the undead surged around us, they ran into the first air elementals coming from the north and battle was joined. With some difficulty, my companions dispatched the creatures that had attacked us, but not before a large air elemental broke through the undead lines and into the circle in which we were fighting. Nova tried to drive it away, but it unleashed a whirlwind that threw several of our party about like rag dolls. We had to get away, but since I did not dare to cease my prayer, we weren’t going anywhere.

It was all I could do to keep praying as a thunderous blast rang from the back of wagon, shredding the covers, as Locke finished off the leader of the group of undead, a walking perverted corpse of a warrior much like the one we had encountered in the swamp. It was at this point that Olaf gathered his courage, grabbed the reins, and got our horse moving. The tingling along my spine continued, and my hand now appeared to be on fire, though I felt no burning. We turned south, away from the battlefront, thinking that the fastest way to get clear of this abominable host was to plunge straight through. To our dismay, though, the elemental followed us, buffeting Lumi and Gorbash until they lost consciousness and fell off their horses.

Then, Locke saved us. There’s no other way to say it. Conjuring a disembodied magical hand, he used to it first distract and then confuse the elemental. I had just had a flash of insight, which I do not doubt was divinely inspired, that the warding effect of my prayer would continue even if I interrupted it to administer healing, so after directing a healing word at Nova, who had (as usual) taken the worst of the damage in the fighting, I jumped off the wagon to tend quickly to Lumi, and as she recovered her horse, I sprinted back to the wagon and clambered back aboard. While we were moving, the protective circle moved with us, leaving the elemental to be engulfed by the dead. And thus we managed to effect our escape.

I cannot say with certainty what came over me, or rather, through me. Even as I perceived my own hand to be on fire, my companions say that I looked to be entirely on fire, radiating holy light. I can only assume that Lord Pelor used me as a conduit for his power in order to keep us alive, presumably to preserve us to carry out his future plans. I won’t complain.

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Urgent: Littlebrook's Mayor
A small note delivered to the mayor by an out of breath courier from Hillside.

Dear Mayor,

It is possible that a fiendish fire elemental is travelling in the direction of your town. You can send your gratitude to Locke, the gnome, for that!

Best regards,
Opie

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The Second Wave
A letter from Opie

Opie

My Dearest Lillywenn,

It has been quite some time, since I have last put my ink on a leaf of papyrus. After all, it is useless as it will never reach your eyes. However, I feel that it would bring me comfort, a feeling far removed from my soul, since your departure.

I have recently made amends with your brother, I tended to his garden and he gave me hospitality in his castle He was kind enough to introduce me to a band of vagabo…adventurers, knowing that some time away would help remedy these deep wounds. I must say, I have lost my touch for adventure, as a pack of wolves proved to me that my trusty Scimitar was not the only thing that was rusty. It has been rough fitting in with the group, as I have been a late addition and my personality is not the most welcoming one…though I promise with all my heart that I am putting my best effort forward.
These past few nights have been filled with excitement, we ran into a group of goblins at the Castle of Lord Porkroast. The initial battle was rough, but a success none of the less. We searched the castle for the Duke’s whereabouts and came up empty-handed…well, for the most part, as we did find two beings. The first: an interesting gnome, named Locke, who is strangely quite passionate about romantic novels. Not judging, just making an observation. The second: a powerful fire elemental, Neraxious…he seemed to recognize one of the elves in our group. Sketchy, but with no concrete information, we shall rest this matter for now.
As we set to leave the castle we encountered more goblins, and a fat, ugly Hobgoblin…who interestingly, struck a remarkable resemblance to you mother, but I digress. After 5 nights of battles, we were veterans, this was a massacre of goblins and they stood no chance. With every swing of our weapon, discharge of a spell, a goblin was struck dead. Our coordination and cooperation was beautiful and smooth like a well-crafted multi-bagpipe ballad.
You know I am not particularly keen to killing a being, but after witnessing what these vile creatures can do, I felt nor sorrow or sympathy in seeing them to their demise. The rust that corrupted the blade of my scimitar has now been washed off with the blood of goblins.

Today, was the first time I have felt alive, since…well, I do not wish to write it again.

If you could lay your eyes upon me now. HA!

Maybe we will end up meeting sooner than expected…

Love,
Opie

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Skirmish at Borkhold Keep
Compiled from Milan's journal

Well, that could have gone better. Then again, it could have gone a lot worse.

We approached the keep mounted, and as we drew near, we spotted a helmeted head peeking over the battlements of the outer wall. The figure to which it was attached launched several sling stones at us, which went wide, after which it shouted an alarm in what I recognized as Goblin. The main gate had been left open wide enough to permit a person to slip through, and JD, Lumi, Gorbash, and Nova dismounted and dashed to it while Opie and I finished hobbling the horses. Three or maybe four goblins on the wall loosed arrows at us, and two of them struck Nova. As Opie and I made for the gate as well, Opie called up a magical bank of fog which rapidly rose in and around the gate; in retrospect, this may have been the one thing that kept us from being pinned down and picked off. I made it to the gate, but Opie also took an arrow from one of the goblins on the wall.

However, I was now in the fog and spent most of the fight within it, so I’ve had to piece together the following from walking the battlefield and talking to the others in our group once the fight was over. The layout of the keep was roughly square, with a courtyard in the center, the main gate in the south wall, a five-story tower making up the south-east corner, the residence making up the north-west corner, and lean-to stables against the east wall. At the time of our approach, four goblins were on the south wall, while two more were on the north wall; one of the latter was evidently the party’s leader. All but the leader were armed with shortbows and scimitars, and they were well placed to pick off anyone coming through the gate, and they might well have done so were it not for Opie’s bank of fog.

JD and Lumi made for the ground floor door to the tower, fatally shooting two of the goblins on the south wall, and one on the north wall, along the way. Once inside the tower, they made their way up the stairs, where JD encountered and dispatched another of the goblins from the south wall, who had run into the tower as well. Lumi continued up to come level with the battlements, where she shot and killed the last goblin on the south wall.

Meanwhile, Gorbash headed across the courtyard for the stairs to the north wall, followed by Nova. The goblin leader moved to intercept them, and they joined battle by the well. I had invoked the power of Pelor to partially heal Nova’s wounds, but he was still hurting; during the fight, he first took a slash from the goblin leader’s scimitar and then an errant blow from Gorbash’s hammer. By the time I emerged from the fog, I saw Gorbash still locked in combat with the goblin, while Nova was prostrate in a pool of his own blood. As I uttered a healing word to prevent him from dying, JD and Lumi emerged onto the south wall and each put an arrow into the goblin leader, finishing off the job Gorbash had started.

Briefly, there was silence. Then we set about tending to the wounded and searching the dead. The amount of injury is beyond the power that Pelor grants me to heal (Lumi is the only one who didn’t get wounded during the fight), so we will likely have to rest up for a while before we search the rest of the keep.

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Life on the Road
Compiled from Milan's journal

Day 1.
Spent the day traveling between fields. Road very quiet. Reached edge of the forest around sundown. Lumi managed to bring down a small boar for dinner, and I smoked the leftovers to supplement our trail rations.

Day 2.
Spent the day traveling through the forest. Road still quiet. At our mid-afternoon rest stop, we were ambushed by a pack of wolves; if it wasn’t for Lumi, they’d have been on us before we could even have got our weapons out. As it was, both Lumi and Opie were mortally wounded in the first attack, and Nova was severely injured as well. I managed to keep everyone alive while JD’s arrows and Gorbash’s hammer did for most of the animals. Afterwards, I patched up the wounded while Gorbash and JD skinned the wolves. Now camping at the site of the fight. Two horses bolted during the fight, Opie’s and mine, and we only managed to recover mine. I’m lending him my horse while I drive the cart.

Day 3.
Came out of the forest into rolling hills. Along the road, we came upon a tent by the side of the road, occupied by a man and a small girl. With some questioning and educated guesswork, we figured out they are Yrsa, daughter of Duke Borkhold, and the family’s butler. Bad news: apparently, there was a magical mishap at the castle and the inhabitants were attacked by a large number of elementals two weeks ago. The butler was ordered to take the girl away and keep her safe. He’d been wanting to go back and check on the castle but had been reluctant to do so without an escort. We offered him passage with us, which he accepted.

By dusk we reached the village of Hillside, consisting of a dozen or so houses, a small temple, an inn, and a general store. We got lodgings at the inn and managed to extract some information from the locals. Things have been quiet in the direction of the castle, but a fire can be seen from the tower at night. The villagers keep their shutters closed.

Day 4.
Left the butler and the girl in the village and headed for the castle. Lumi and JD had taken a closer look before dawn but were unable to glean much.

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Unfinished Business in Littlebrook
Compiled from Milan's journal

After the incident on the docks, the group reconvened at the Siren’s Call, and shortly after JD told us about his discovery, we were approached by a rather foppishly dressed invidividual who introduced himself as “The Mongoose.” He informed us that he was a representative of the Longshoremen’s Guild and was aware of our conflict with the Wachowskis. He continued that Igor Wachowski and his gang had become a liability to the Guild, that as a result the Guild wished to end its association with Igor in a very permanent manner, and was willing to provide us with a substantial reward (say, passage by ship to practically anywhere we pleased) if we would eliminate Igor and as many of his underlings as possible. Seeing the opportunity to strike two birds with one stone, we accepted, though we managed to convince The Mongoose to pay us in cash rather than in services.

Once we had taken the job, he told us Wachowski and his men had a habit of gathering weekly in the cellar of a disreputable tavern on the waterfront to play cards, and that the next game would be the following night. This would not only provide us with our best chance of catching them as a group, but more importantly, our best chance of keeping our activity hidden from the city watch. The tavern staff were all in the pay of the Guild, and would assist us in completing the job, but on no account were we allow anyone outside the tavern to notice what we were doing. The Mongoose then took his leave, and we conferred about how to approach the job. After considering several options, and discarding most of them as impractical, we concluded that softening up the opposition by poisoning their drinks was our best bet, after which we would finish off any survivors. As the closest thing to a herbalist in the group, the task of acquiring a poison fell to me. After all too brief a night’s rest, I studied my small pharmacopeia over breakfast, and then set off to market to acquire my components (which set me back a fair amount of money), which I then spent the afternoon mixing. I settled on a mixture consisting of ground nightshade root dissolved in oleander sap, reduced over simmering heat, and finished off with ground grains of paradise, the latter both to mask the flavor and speed the digestion.

We arrived at the tavern perhaps an hour before sundown. Gorbash concealed himself in an empty barrel in the cellar, and the rest of us posed ourselves as regular patrons around the ground floor of the tavern, though all with eyes on the cellar door. Some time after dusk, Wachowski and seven of his cronies arrived and made their way downstairs. The barmaid prepared their first round of ale, into which I introduced generous doses of the poison I had concocted. Then, we settled down to wait; I had calculated that the poison would take half an hour to an hour to take effect. After an hour, nobody had emerged from the cellar, so those of us upstairs went down to see what had happened. The poison had proved more effective than I’d dared to hope: Wachowski and his associates lay dead to a man, and Gorbash was already busily dismembering their corpses and stuffing them into empty barrels for disposal. Having thus quit ourselves of our task without physical violence, we met with The Mongoose and collected our earnings.

Early the following morning, we made our way to the livery stable, where we were to meet the mayor. The previous day, while I had been busy with my mortar and pestle, the others had talked to Mother Shael and the mayor and accepted another task: to take word of the events in Trisk to Duke Borkhold, the ruler of the province, at his castle four days’ ride to the south. The Borkhold family lives in comparative isolation because they are sorcerors. By way of payment, my companions had negotiated riding horses for all of us, along with a mule-drawn cart for our baggage. Speaking of companions, the mayor had an addition for our group: Opirium, a human man in his fifties(?), bearded and dressed in earth tones. The mayor thought we’d want to have him along for his specialized wilderness knowledge. Perhaps, but I hope he’s handy with the scimitar he wears.

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Returning to Littlebrook

Having completed their visit to what was once the village Trisk, the party set course towards Littlebrook once more, to report back on what they had found. On their way out, they saw more of the Inflicted, but left them alone. At night, they set up camp along the road, as before.

It wasn’t until they were well within sight of the wooden gates of Littlebrook, that they spotted what might have been a lookout. A scraggly figure, clearly looking in their direction, who took off in the direction of the docks, before the heroes arrived at the gates. In case this was a sign of bad things to come, the group decided to head straight for the Pelorian temple, to deliver their report.

At the temple, Lumi the wood elf discovered that the 5 vials of purple ink she had found in Trisk, by request from the Littlebrook scribe, had somehow gone missing. Thinking back, she remembered seeing the vials in her pack the night before, as she made herself comfortable in a tree, as she likes to do. However, though she tried retracing her steps, and went so far as to talk to other merchants in town, no trace of the vials was uncovered.

Mother Shael in the temple of Pelor, was deeply disturbed by the findings from Trisk, and asked the heroes to return the next day, leaving her to do more research about their findings.

Leaving the temple, it became clear that a group of street urchins were following the heroes from a distance, keeping an eye on their activities. Figuring that an ambush might in their future, the party convened at the inn. After a few drinks, the barkeep warned them that one of Igor Wachowski’s men had just left. Given their history with the Wachowski brothers, the party wasted no time.

The two elves immediately got in position on the rooftops across from the inn, hoping to ambush the would-be ambushers. Gorbash and Nova decided to head to the docks, toward the green warehouse known as the Wachowski gang’s hideout. Once there, they found the gang gathered inside the warehouse, getting a pep-talk from Igor himself. The gang leader wanted vengeance for his dead brother, despite what the local thieves guild would have to say about it.

Gorbash, thinking quickly, decided to tie the warehouse gate shut with rope, and proceeded to set the warehouse on fire. Though the flames were quickly discovered, the gang escaping by rolling a cart through the burning gate, the hangout was destroyed, and no ambush happened that night.

JD saw the flames from the rooftop, and hurried to the docks to see what was going on. Once there, he volunteered to help put it out, checking for any valuable trinkets among the gangs’ scorched belongings. Not finding any valuables, he instead decided to follow Igor, as he left the scene.

The gang leader walked alone to the Longshoreman’s Guild house, where he entered.

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Excerpt from Milan's report to Mother Shael

Following our skirmish with the Inflicted, we surveyed our surroundings; while more of them were in the area, the fate of the two we killed seemed to deter them from engaging us further. Evidently, they have some sense of self-preservation. Subsequently, introductions were made between our group and the two newcomers. One is Gorbash, a dwarf (who rattled off a list of his lineage which I cannot remember), and the other a human named Nova; both are professional fighters, so their presence was welcome. Lumi having been wounded in the fight, I applied healing to her wounds.

While we were discussing our next course of action, Cirrus noticed what appeared to be a trail of blood on the ground leading through the tannery yard, entering from the west and departing to the north (or vice-versa). Upon closer inspection, however, the fluid proved to be purple ink. For reasons not clear to me, this excited Lumi, who hared off following the trail westwards. She was pursued initially by JD who was apparently remonstrating with her in Elvish. The rest of us set off towards the crater in the center of town, following the trail of ink spots along the way. By the time we reached and descended into the crater, JD rejoined us.

The lower half of the crater gave the impression of having been some kind of… arena, perhaps? From the bottom to halfway up the slopes, we found tiers of what appeared to have been holding cells, while at the bottom itself, we found the ruins of what had once been a domed, open-walled building, much like a large stone gazebo. This structure had what had once been warding glyphs carved into its pillars, and apparently, bars of energy had once blocked off the spaces between the pillars. Both Cirrus and Gorbash estimated that the entire complex might be as much as four thousand (!) years old, and Cirrus stated that the central structure emanated strong but dissipating traces of enchantment. But part of the reason I surmise the central structure was some sort of arena was that the floor of the complex was littered with hundreds, possibly thousands of corpses of humanoid creatures of demonic appearance, many up to three times the size of an adult male human. The bodies were of a wide range of antiquity, ranging from possibly thousands of years old—almost as old as the complex, in fact—to comparatively fresh, as in perhaps a week old. It’s worth remarking that no decomposition had occurred, and the older bodies were thoroughly desiccated. All the bodies I examined displayed claw and bite marks, similar to those that would have been inflicted by the creatures themselves, only generally larger. Similar claw marks were to be found on what had been the inside of the central structure, again, ranging from thousands of years old to comparatively fresh.

In the center of it all, we found one living soul: a studious looking human male, making notes in a book. Later examination found that he was either copying the glyphs from the pillars, or writing something in the same script (a script unknown to any in the party). We did also notice that he was writing with purple ink, and we gauged him to thus have been the source of the ink trail. Unfortunately, we were unable to gain much useful information from him directly. He appeared to be quite insane, stating that we were not “the cavalry” and accusing us of having caused the cataclysm (on the basis that I was carrying the obsidian tablet we acquired from the tanner). He then challenged Gorbash to a duel to the death, in which he intended only to use his quill. Gorbash hit him twice, once with the shield, once with the warhammer. The latter blow was a mortal wound, but I was ready to step in and managed to leave him unconscious but stable.

Feeling that we had completed our investigation of the crater, we collected various artifacts (including the head from one of the demonic corpses) for later examination, and while Gorbash, Nova, and I returned to where we had left the mule and cart, Cirrus, Diero, and JD made a quick foray to the temple of Lathander to search its small library. They returned empty-handed. At the cart, we found Lumi, who told us a rather incredible story of having been trapped in the local herbalist’s house by five Inflicted, but managing to escape. Presumably, the herbalist was the fellow whom Gorbash beat up and whose bacon I saved. When he recovers, he probably won’t be too pleased about Lumi burning down his house, even if (as she claims) there were five Inflicted inside.

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Excerpt from the journal of an unknown elf:

…After the wreckage outside the Temple of Lathander, the peace within was welcome, despite the corpse of the Priest we had been sent to locate. Alas, I was hoping the Dawnpriest might help me shed some fresh light on my lost memories, but for now I have no choice but to keep looking for answers. The priest indicated in his journal that he suspected the local tanner of malfeasance. While he was short on specifics in his missive, it could be linked to the fate of the town, the priest’s murder, or both but there is no clear proof here. I will suggest our next stop be the tannery, to see what we can discover there…

… skirted the edge of the village to get to the river, successfully avoiding any direct encounters with the black creatures that used to be the residents of Trisk. As I suspected, the tannery turned out to be a point of interest after all. Most of the complex appears to have been consumed in whatever cataclysm claimed this town, but the Main structure stands. We have found our first survivor, who appears to be the tanner who the priest suspected to be a cult leader of some kind. After much shouting and flailing about, Diero caught him as he leapt out the window. While there was little of interest in the tannery building, I did come across a black robe and a bloody dagger secreted under the tanner’s bed. It looks like the priest was accurate in his suspicions, but whatever this man may have known, he seems to have become little more than a babbling idiot. I will leave the cause of his madness to speculation by the more scholarly in our group, but all he does is now is claim to be the chosen one while begging for the obsidian tablet we pried from his fingers. It seems rather special, and the Halfling says it’s magical, so I am disinclined to acquiesce to his requests.
I suggested we tie the tanner to a boat and let him float to Littlebrook, or beyond for all I care… Alas, the others insist on keeping him around for some reason. He’d better stop his babbling before my headache gets any worse though, or I may take things into my own hands…
…While interrogating the mad tanner, we were approached by a lone dwarf, drawn by the commotion. He claims to be a traveler investigating the village like we are, but I haven’t decided whether I can trust him. He looks pretty normal, for a dwarf, and seems to be handy with an axe, so having him around could be a good thing, especially as it seems our investigation is likely to take us underground in the near future…

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