I write this by candlelight as my bride snores fitfully in her bed, somehow not choking herself on all of the food crammed into her gaping maw…of course I’m lashing out as exhaustion and the absurd and devastating events from today take their toll on me. Zora is just a victim of circumstance and bad luck. Maybe we begin this at the night before. My uncle, having caught wind of what occurred between me and Zarko, called me into a meeting with him and demanded that I play my role today as I should, which I agreed to.
The wedding was a simple affair, and there was little joy in it, as with any business dealing. After we married by Dain Kelvin, the feast commenced. Of course, to draw more torture to the event, Deidre was set up to serve the head table. Oddly, she seemed to feel nothing of the pain I thought this event would have on her, as it had on me, as all of the foolish day dreams we had of running away and getting married somewhere far from Casteel where no one knew us had been rendered impossible. Drake seemed a bit suspicious of her, but maybe due to something from me instead of her…or maybe he sensed what I should have.
As the evening progressed, I played my role and started to escort my bride around the guest tables. After a while of this there was a commotion back near the head table and cries of panic. As I rushed over I found Uncle Greyson collapsed on the ground by his chair, foaming at the mouth looking as if he had been poisoned. I made a quick invocation of Aeylan to cure the poison, but it was too late. Glancing out the opened doors I saw a sight that confused and disturbed me, Deidre fleeing from the hall. Drake had caught sight of that and both of us followed her out to the patio where she glanced back at us with glowing golden eyes while standing on the top of a 10 foot wall and leaped to the ground.
Alvalore sprang to the ground smoothly and was after her in a flash. Drake and I followed as best we could. Alvalore came close to catching it as they both raced for the outer walls that bordered the Tanglelands, but it made the top of the wall first. Luckily, it decided to taunt Alvalore, which gave us a clue to what it was, for once it reached the top of the wall, its form shifted to an identical copy of Alvalore and it leapt to the Tanglelands. At first this news gave a little relief to my heart, since I knew it was not Deidre. Then, of course, the realization hit me that it might have done something terrible to her to ensure it would not be discovered taking her place.
I was torn between racing to the servants’ quarters or returning to my uncle, but protocol and family loyalty won out in the end. When we returned, Kadesh and Nam had been examining my uncle and came to the conclusion that he had been poisoned by a poison from the Halidras flower, which is a flower native to the Tanglelands. It also seemed that the family amulet he wears had been stolen from him. Kadesh held the chain, but the amulet was missing. It seems like his murder may have involved a theft. Of course possibilities swirled through my head: would the Thanandrians have done this – we are neighbors and trade partners, but not very close as different species. Could it have been the Dark Elves of Mysk? What about Karzanov’s using this as a way to get their daughter more money, if I inherit my uncle’s estate? Could anybody else have done this?
I quickly checked in on my wife, who was feeding herself in my absence. Willam was guarding the door and I sent him for more food as I quickly took my leave of Zora. My former companions and I got together after sending the guests and other family back to their rooms for the night. We decided to investigate the servers and kitchen staff of the Inn. I had to be quick here so that I alone went to the servers, who came from Blasfalus with my uncle’s estate. I went to ask if anyone was missing or had been acting strangely. A few reported that Deidre was late last night to her duties and had seemed to be acting curtly, which she never did. I asked to see the room she stayed in. What I dreaded to be true was what I witnessed, an image that I’m sure will be burned into my nightmares until the day I join Aeylan eternally. Deidre had been murdered, killed in the bed she laid in, her throat slashed, her blood soaked into the mattress. Stunned, I shut the door and stared blankly at her. I walked over and slowly caressed her hair. Memories after memories came pouring into my mind: when we first met as she nursed me back to health, days when I’d escape and join her at the inn she worked, anonymous to the commoners around us, the horseback ride from yesterday… It took some time to collect myself, but I had a duty to my uncle and now a duty to avenge Deidre, not to mention a duty to unearth the truth as a disciple of Aeylan. I made prayers to Aeylan to help me find the truth of what happened, and a quick prayer to Yon-Koldin to guide them in their deaths and guide me in my vengence. I took Deidre to Dain Kelvin so that she could be given proper burial rights. I gathered myself once more and returned to my compatriots who had found nothing much from the workers who prepared the food at the inn. We decided to retire for the night and regather in the morning. Luckily, I found Zora asleep and now it’s time to put this away to get to work tomorrow.
I rose early and left my snoring bride in bed, she never knew I was even there with her on our wedding night, sleeping on the floor beside our bed. I did leave a note of regret. I met early with some family and our company along with Derek Listlow, head of the blasrod sharpshooters who are stationed at Gloridan. I stated that I basically wanted martial law in town and curfews with no one travelling unescorted until the mystery of my uncle’s death was solved. It might feel extreme, but he is one of the Leaguesman of the Aegis league and it is my duty not only as kin, but also as a Valiant, to find out what happened, and no one should be above suspicion. I also asked Dain Kelvin to prepare Zone of Truth spells, so that all could be questioned. That enraged Zarko, who stated that I had secrets (I do – but none relevant to this), and he wanted to question me. I walked off without acknowledging what he said.
As we discussed leads (there weren’t many besides the possible trail it left), we started thinking about possible leads and what we had was basically the amulet and the poison. In one of the more surreal moments of my life so far, I spent much of the morning after the death of my uncle and my love (and my marriage) in the library of Gloridan, along with my comrades, researching the amulet. What seemed like it would be a colossal waste of time, turned into much needed leads. It seems that my family’s medallion may be a powerful artifact dating back from the time of the Crystal Throne and the rule of the Edamese over this land. The amulet was actually acquired from sorcerer who ruled this area from Edam, a sultan named Nasir-al-Nasiam who ruled from a lost citadel named Thoroughdawn Citadel. The amulet is useless unless paired with a sword forged from Aethyum crystal called Stormlight. The amulet was taken from the sultan when he was beheaded by my distant ancestor, Caius Sunsare as the men of Casteel rose up to throw off the occupiers to the land. In the research we also found that the citadel was supposed to be somewhere in the area and had disappeared from the surface of the earth when a mighty earthquake, sunk it into the land so it, along with the sword, was lost to the ages.
With that information we said our farewells (mine briefly to Zora, again drowning her grief in food), and headed into the Tanglelands to see if we could pick up the trail of the shapeshifter. Nam again proved his worth as a companion as he turned into a panther and we trailed it through the Tanglelands. Eventually the trail led to and then across the main road that leads from Casteel and into the deep woods. As we crossed the roads and into the depths of the woods, too late we realized that we had walked into an ambush. Luckily, it was not any with evil intentions, but instead a band of Thanandrians. Outnumbered, we surrendered, and even though we had Kadesh, an advisor to the leader of the Thanandrians, Tharik Leafspear, with us, it did us no good. This was an offshoot band of Thanandrians that seemed independent and lorded over this part of the Tanglelands.
We were eventually brought to this group’s (maybe called Freeclaws – but I’m not sure since my grasp of their language is not expert) leader, Tarik Swiftclaw. They resided in a tree the size I could have never imagined before I saw it. When we ascended to the upper platform-like area (bigger than any greathall I’ve been in), we met Tarik. As Kadesh and I spoke with him and answered his questions, he seemed ready to find us not a threat. However, a real threat had come: from the skies a bunch of bird creatures (later I figured out they were fiends) descended to attack the Thanandrian village. When one of the bigger fiends landed it let out a horrible screech that stunned me and a few others. Dazed, I watched Alvalore go to work on it with support from others. Someone also had the fantastic idea to grab some weapons from the bag they were stored in and pass them out. When I came to my senses I saw one of the smaller demons menacing a group of women and children. I called down a blessing from Aeylan and smote it in one strike. As I looked around the rest of the group had felled one of the greater fiends and the rest seemed to be fleeing.
When we recovered and finished our discussion and Nam helped heal some of the wounded, we found out that the hunting party that captured us had fought against our prey. It had shifted into a Thanandrian as they pursued it, joined the group, and struck at them unprepared. In the confusion it escaped. They called it a Thak-ryne, or devil-face, a name that rings home with me. Eventually, with some persuasion from me, the hunting group decided to lead us to where they had tracked it. We were also given a necklace with a small claw that had markings on it as a gift from Tarik to allow us safe passage through his lands. We parted ways with the promise of future friendship.
We were lead to what they called a sacred rock that had Edamese script on it. Near it was a crevasse that descended down into the earth. Nam, through a long and elaborate spell, discovered that the rock read “Qalea Niavaraan” or in common, “Thoroughdawn CItadel”. We had found the lost citadel. As we looked around, we realized that some of the small hillocks and depressions, might look like what a keep might look like if it had been sunk and covered with earth. At this point, something that had bothered me all day manifested itself. I had thought that my uncle’s murder must be part of some plot by some group at the wedding. But what if someone was trying to get the amulet because they have the sword? What of all of these ancient myths from the past are becoming realities? This thought might be shaking me more than my previous ideas about his death. We thanked our guides and proceeded into the crevasse.
We entered a little cave that had an opening at the bottom that led to a cliff with a worn rope on it. There was also some greenish ichor on it, which I assumed must be a wound the shapeshifter received in its battle with the Thanandrians. It’s odd how Aeylan’s mysteries work. I had assumed that the magical rope that we found after our battle with Hellen Rae was nothing more than a minor item that would not do much to help us, yet Aeylan blessed us with something that probably saved one of us a serious injury, if not death. Here we used the rope to safely reach the worn rope that dropped us into a cavern – which I was NOT at all happy to be in since our last journey underground against the minions of Ogremach. In maybe a bit of paranoia, I kept looking for that symbol, but thank Aeylan, none were found. However, the cavern was not just a cave. We seemed to have settled down on a tower of the wall of Thoroughdawn Citadel. As we explored the tower – the tower underground, still not right in my mind, we found a series of switchback staircases, that led to the courtyard inside the walls. Again here the rope proved its usefulness as a few of us surely would have fallen from great heights, if not for it. Except, of course, for Alvalore who in what seems like magic, but I believe is from his monastic training, can seemingly leap from any height and land without injury. Very impressive trick, but I’ll take my armor over his robes any day.
When we reached the courtyard, we headed for a door into what I assume would be the keep proper. This is where we could have met our demise. As Drake and I entered the room with the Driftglobe, it suddenly rose up and the light went out. Spiders who had been nesting in the ceiling of the room had snatched it and dropped it leaving us in dark. As the spiders dropped all around us, biting some of us, I turned and shoved everyone out the door leaving myself as the shield. Before the door slammed closed, as I lay on the ground, I heard some otherworldly slurping noise with screams, maybe from the spiders. Then the door was shut and the noises continued. Apparently, Kadesh had cast some spell that had done something horrible. I’m glad I did not witness it, but as with Yotho, I wonder what evil resides in he heart of that Thanandrian to cast such a horrible spell.
I healed Drake who had been poisoned and when we opened the door, all of the spiders were dead. As we looked at the maze of webs above, we caught sight of a humanoid form. We pulled it down from the webs and found it to be the shapeshifter. On it was my uncle’s amulet…maybe my amulet now? Instead of feeling relief for its recovery, I felt anger. Why was I to be robbed at my chance for vengeance. This creature, who had first murdered my love, then my uncle, was killed by chance, instead of me. And where was I to get the answer to why? I held it in as it would not become me to have an outburst, but I was close to hacking the dead spiders to even more pieces than the spell had. I need to gain control of my feelings. This anger does not bode well for a Valiant.
We went through that room and down a hallway into another room that had some sort of pump, that in the days of Edam’s rule, would have brought water to the Citadel. As we explored further we were shocked to encounter another ghost from the past. It was a Warforged, an animated construct from the battle against Azur-Mal. After talking to it for a while, we found out that it had been “sleeping” for centuries and had just woken because it somehow sensed a Nexi-pool – a gateway to darkness (maybe) that Azur-Mal used to corrupt sentient innocents to become his fiendish servants. As we talked maybe this made sense…how else could the fiends that had attacked the village arrive? The Thanadrians had never seen anything like them before. Maybe they had been created by the Nexi-pool?
The Warforged’s name is Echo and it seems much more human than machine. In fact, it seemed wounded and Aeylan’s blessing was able to heal some of its wounds. We’ve stopped for a few minutes to gather our thoughts. Could Azur-Mal and the Drallkindon be rising again? Was Ogre-mach another way for Him to try and find a way back to Bellenos? My head swims as I tuck this back into my sack and gather my strength to power forward. Hopefully, this meeting with Echo will help me find my vengeance for Deidre and my uncle.