Dark Siege

Devinson's Journal #7
from wedding day to meeting Echo

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.

Devinson's Journal #6
Battle with Marlos to night before wedding

As we pushed beyond the Bulette room, we made our way deeper into this underground complex of caverns and found what we had been searching for, Marlos Urnroyle and not too soon. We entered another chamber with a large circular chasm, but somehow floating in the middle of it was an island of land. As we watched, it seemed as the island of rock would drift slightly around the chasm, at times coming close to the edge where we were and at others drifting beyond jumping distance. As we watched we saw an eerie glow emanating from the island and Marlos seemed to be conducting some sort of evil ritual with four monks who were chanting and possibly causing the glow to come from them. I guessed that they were summoning something. The ceiling was either supported or ornamented with columns that rose to the ceiling from the ground where we were. Nam, who had scouted the chamber out as a spider (he’s been a dog, a rat, a spider…what can’t he become?) started to climb the column and then later dropped down via web to the island. As he did that, we started leaping across the chasm onto the island, timing it as the island approached us. Alvalore quickly streaked across the island to begin pummeling the monks, who were so caught up in their unholy ceremony that they didn’t even defend themselves. How blind zealots are to the evil that they are involved in!

Apparently Marlos was not involved in the ceremony, or had done his part, as he engaged Alvalore and struck him with Ironfang, which turned out to be a nasty looking warpick. When he hit Alvalore, he somehow sent him flying toward the edge of the island, almost skittering over the edge and into the abyss below. Fortunately, he was able to contort his body enough to grab the edge and hang on. At that point I called down Aeylan’s blessing on my sword which burst out with holy light guiding my aim. Krug and I engaged Marlos, while Avalore recovered and continued his assault on the monks, joined by Nam who had descended from the ceiling. A few seconds later Drake joined us on our attack on Marlos. As we battled Marlos, I noticed that every time a monk would drop, Marlos would cry out in pain.and seem to weaken. Over and over again, I called down Aeylan’s blessing to smite Marlos, while Krug, after getting off a good blow to start the fight, switched to distracting Marlos, giving me better opportunities to strike at him while Drake slipped in and out of combat using his rapier. In short time, The monks were dispatched and I was able to Strike Marlos down, avenging the Valiants of Everwatch and reclaiming some the Valiant armor he was wearing. Once the threat of Marlos had ended and we were able to do a thorough exploration of the rest of the complex and from it and Marlos we discovered a number of magic items and some gold and other coins. Among these was a necklace of adaptation, boots of jumping, a cloak of prtoection, magical leather armor, a driftglobe (a magical item that produces light), a magical rapier, and of course the armor and Ironfang that Marlos was wielding.

When we emerged from Everwatch Keep, and started making our plans on returning, we were surprised that Krug decided not to return with us. He said that travelling up in the mountains reminded him how much he loved the area and that he was loathe to leave it. I was concerned about him, travelling on his own, but he assured me he could take care of himself. He is certainly built for the climate. He said that he didn’t know what he was going to do, but he figured he start by travelling north into the furthest reaches of Rooin and into the Barrier Mountains. Once there he wasn’t sure what he would do. He was pretty sure he wouldn’t return to his homeland of Hogh, since he had been banished because of the magic that manifested itself inside of him. He said he would probably head west into Fyrnoria and explore that land. I was very sad to hear the news since I had gotten very used to fighting at his side. He did, however, give me a magical whistle that when blown, would alert him and guide him to its location. He said that if I were ever needed, I should blow it once in the morning and again at night and it would magically guide me toward him. We said our farewells and watched him head off deeper into the mountains.

Another surprise – Alvalore and Nam have decided to travel home with us. Obviously Alvalore had been temporarily led astray by the cult of stone, while Nam…not really sure where Nam’s from or where his home is. Maybe that’s why he’s coming. Maybe the druid wants to check out city life for a while to see what it’s about….

For myself, I can’t wait to get back to Casteel. This mission was taxing to both my body and my soul. And ultimately, we’ve avenged the Valiants…but is this stone cult just the beginning…is this what the omens were about? Does finding out the truth about what happened make the happening less disastrous? How do Valiants, worthy worshippers of The Aesurrung, get defeated and lose this keep, apparently all dying? These questions are beyond me and hopefully can be answered by someone wiser than me. I also need to talk to some leaders of my faith and look for their guidance to help alleviate some guilt on my conscience…or find out that what I have done can not be alleviated. I want to talk to Valiants about the reality of missions like this. We are taught to lead men on the battlefield against enemies that fight the way we do. We are not taught how to maintain the faith and lead men in situations like what we faced. Are Valiants meant to do such things? Maybe that’s why the Valiants fell…maybe they weren’t willing to murder for their cause. Only Aeylan knows which way is right.

Finally I need to find a way to push off this wedding. I’ve been avoiding it for over a year now, and must continue to do so. Maybe another training with the Valiants or another mission that will send me away. One way or another,it must be avoided. And then there’s Deidre. It’s been far too long since I’ve laid with her or spent an evening in the inn with her. There were a few times over the last week or so that only my faith in Aeylan and my thoughts of time with her kept me going. That, I cannot live without any longer. I hope our return trip is quick and uneventful.

Well, Aeylan has a path chosen for people sometimes, and it seems it is so with me. After spending a short amount of time doing those things I had previously mentioned wanting to do, including spending several wonderful nights with Deidre, thanks to Willam, Phillip, and Davis for covering for me. But terrible news came today. Uncle Greyson told me that the wedding plans had been finalized and accelerated. As much as I tried to cast doubt on the Karzanov family from some of the things I had overheard from Drake and Yotho as we adventured, it was to no avail. I am to do my duty and wed Zora. I must make the most of my time leading up to the wedding…

It’s been an interesting few days. I sit here the night before the wedding, my head spinning. We are in Gloridan. You’d think that Gloradon would look down on me and give me the strength to rebel as he did against Mon-Palas, but no, I follow orders and obey my king and uncle. Though Glorison’s Creed is a beautiful place for a wedding, my bride-to-be leaves much to be desired. She seems to have been feasting herself since we last met a few months ago, and tonight I left her stained with chocolate and creme, having devoured most of the dessert plate. Her father, Zarko, tried to intimidate me into calling off the wedding, since I was late for the evening before reception. Sadly, I could not controlled myself as that is actually my greatest wish and prayer, and engaged the old man aggressively. Luckily (or not), Alvalore and Drake calmed him down and eventually I gathered my self control and did not push the situation further. I have a feeling I’m going to get a stern talking-to from my uncle tomorrow. Of course, the old man was maybe correct in his condemnation of me, not because I’m making his daughter sad…she has this ridiculous notion of love from an arranged marriage, but because I was late after spending my last pre-marital night with Deidre. Again, Willam covered for me as we used extended practicing for being late (though we did practice swordwork before meeting Deidre). Anyway, it was a good evening turned sour…and now I stare out at the three moons of Bellenos hoping for some salvation.

Of course other things happened over the past few days. Many guests came in from across the Aegis league for this wedding. The Karzanovs even brought some dark elves from Mysk to the wedding. My uncle was not happy about that, but had to bite his tongue. I’ve kept an eye on them with no apparent trouble coming from them. Other interesting guests included a delegation from our neighbors to the north, the Thanandrians. Their leader Tharick Leafspear, a most imposing specimen, led their contingent, but maybe more interesting was an advisor to their king, Kadesh, a Thanandrian less physically imposing, but covered with scarring of many symbols, both Incarnate and Drallkindon, which is quite disturbing. In fact, I think I saw the symbol of Ogremach on him somewhere. I had hoped to talk to him about the symbols sometime, especially since my comrades seem to have also found him interesting enough to hang out with, but it never happened. Maybe we can talk during the wedding reception. By the way, where is Yotho? – I never asked Drake.

Well, I guess that’s enough for tonight. I go into tomorrow with the hope the Aeylan will see fit to save his faithful servant from this regrettable event. Yet I cannot think that tomorrow will come without my saving. But, as a faithful servant of my god and my king, I will do my duty as has been given to me.

Devinson's Journal #5
Helen Rae to Bulette battle

It seems that no matter what decision I make, it never turns out correct with these damned zealot monks (though maybe today makes my decisions of yesterday more palatable). We moved on from the bloodbath with Qarbo, to serach for Helen Rae, leader of the monks. We found a library with a great deal of information about Ogremach, the Temple of the Black Earth, and the plans of the leader of this cult, Marlos Urnroyle, including the idea of a powerful weapon he wields called Ironfang.

We moved on to Helen Rae’s room again with the idea to use deception to capture her. It worked at first as she was fooled by my stone armor and Alvalore, but once I tried to get her to surrender she threw down some dust that enveloped the room in a dark cloud. Once it cleared she surprised us by dropping down from the ceiling (Aeylan grant my wish that I may never see another monk fight against me again!) and a brutal fight ensued. I had made a tactical error of not searching all of the rooms leading to Rae’s room, and left behind us 4 monks who flanked us. The battle broke into two parts with me and Drake battling Helen and Krug, Alavalore, and Namfoodle fighting the monks, more or less. As the battle raged, Helen fled and most of us followed on foot through a garden and into a central alter room we had not yet entered. Krug was the exception and once the other monks had been dispatched, he started to retrace our steps to enter the alter room from the other side. Helen fled to a corner of the temple room and pulled a lever and some metallic grating sound rang out along with a roar. At that time I got knocked out by one her rock-hard fists. When I came to after some healing by Yotho, Helen was gone and a blinded owlbear had come up from the stairs leading down (it had been held down there by a gate that Helen released) and was battling the party.

As for Helen, she fled again, but luckily ran into Krug, who had made the excellent choice of circling around and he finished her off. The rest of the party finished off the owlbear. Depleted of spells and exhausted we decided that we needed rest. We found some stairs that lead to a watchtower, barricaded the door, set watches and slept. As I tried to sleep, I reflected on the battles of the past and realized that something an instructor said years ago, now made sense. I saw a weakness in my fighting style that I figured out I could overcome. I fell asleep satisfied with my discovery. That night I dreamt that I was wondering in a darkened, burned out field that seemed to stretch on forever. Then an enchanting voice that could only have been Aeylan’s spoke out through a blinding light that descended on me. It said, “You have been tested and found wanting, but you shall overcome to greater things – I have faith in you.” When the light disappeared I noticed that among the blackened ruins, small green shoots were pushing through, battling to grow. Then I woke up.

As I prayed in the morning I found that Aeylan had granted me new blessings and new spells, that coupled with my increased battle prowess made me excited for the day to come, and hopefully an answer to the fall of the Valiants here. During one of the later watches, maybe Krug’s, we started to earn noises and movements below. I figured that the havoc we wrought would be discovered, and it was. For hours we continued to hear activity, but eventually it faded to silence. We decided to send out some scouts and Namfoodle transformed into a mouse and Krug was able to turn himself invisible! It seems that I was not the only one to grow in abilities overnight…

I write again after a particularly harrowing encounter. After a thorough search, they found nothing except for blood trails made by the inhabitants of the lower area as they dragged their fallen comrades to some final resting place. We decided to follow the trail and it lead to stairs heading down by where we fought Helen Rae. Namfoodle, still a mouse snuck under a door to check out the room. After a few seconds we heard dark laughter and sounds of movement. We decided to knock in the door where we found a Kanondan. After a brief battle we commanded him to surrender, which he did, thank Aeylan! He told us that the dead had been dragged down to the chasm to be interred there, whatever that meant. He also said the Marlos and his men had defeated the Valiants here and that the captured Kanondan had not been part of it, but had come later. He said that there were a few more Kanondans and some humans down here, along with Marlos. I knocked him out and tied him up, since I said I would spare his life, which I plan to do on our way out of here.

We continued on down some passages and found the room that the owlbear had been in. Some passages had been blocked off by tunnel collapses. We finally understood what the chasm meant when we found a giant chasm that seemed to have no bottom with a flat bridge across it with no rail. As we crossed, the earth started rumbling and I was almost knocked off the bridge. Feats of dexterity are really not my strong point, especially after that injury years ago.

Once we crossed to the landing on the other side, Krug went invisible and he and Nam scouted ahead. They saw a disturbing sight: Two Kanondan and an armored man with a big spear sitting around a fire, across the room, tied up as one would hitch a horse was a giant hard shelled creature with a sharp beak-like maw, a bulette! The bulette had a saddle and it seemed obvious that the man was his rider. We came up with a decent plan of assault, which we did not exactly pull off, but we were still successful. During our discussions the Bulette rider moved over to the Bulette. Invisibly, Drake (who had drank a potion) and Krug struck first. Drake attacked the Bulette, which then leaped high into the air, landing on him. Krug started attacking the rider. The rest of us poured into the room, I charged the Bulette crashing into it with my shield to distract it from Drake, who was about to be consumed by it, Nam cast a tangle spell around the fire and the men. This slowed the men down because they had to fight through the grasping vines which forced them to come out at different times. Chaos erupted. With my newfound battle skills, and the blessing of Aeylan, I was able to do some grievous injury to the Bulette by smiting it with the righteous wrath of Aeylan. And I was able to fend of its attacks with my shield, thank Aeylan, but unfortunately I over committed on a swing and exposed my sword side, which the Bulette then clamped down upon. I had never felt that much pain in my life in one moment as then. Somehow the stone armor held, but the jaws were so powerful that it crushed the armor into me, breaking a number of my ribs, winding me badly. Through Aeylan’s grace, I fought through the pain and that was it’s only time it bit me, which was good, because I don’t think I would’ve survived another bite. That chance for another bite was ended by Drake who managed to find a soft spot in its underbelly and slide his rapier in there to finish it.

The rest of the battle was a blur to me, or just unknown to me since my focus was almost exclusively focused on the beast’s jaws and head that I could strike at it. But I guess Alvalore had his way with the rider, who never actually got on the Bulette, with Krug assisting. This turned out even easier than expected when Nam held the rider, using the Fireheart. At one point I think I saw Nam unsuccessfully try to trip a Kanondan charging Yotho by becoming a gnomish bowling ball. Yotho used healing and other spells here and there effectively. Overall, it was a very good team effort. We also got out of it a magical spear which Avalore has taken to use. Yotho has just finished his incantation and the wounds I suffered from the Bulette have completely healed. Time to put this away and make a quick prayer to Aeylan in hopes of a final ending to the mystery of what happened to the Valiants here.

Devinson's Journal #4
Games 6&7

I have minutes to write as we recover from the bloodbath that just occurred. Thinking about what I wrote hours ago, I’m even more concerned about what is happening to me. Our plan worked pretty well, but what will be its consequences to me. We had Alvalore return to the keep with a story of how his band was attacked by manticores and Yotho magicked himself to look like one of the dead monks. They also took another monk’s body as evidence of the attack. Alvalore and Yotho got past the minotaur guard and let us in the back door. Alvarore then met with Qarbo in hopes of luring him into an ambush saying the Yotho as the monk had collapsed from injuries, but instead he sent a few monks. We dispatched them, but the battle carried into the next room. I had put on the mask and robes we took from Braxis, so when more monks came in I commanded them to come into the kitchen since they thought I was Qarbo – is this more lies or acceptable for a Paladin. One of the monks had a dog with him, but when we started fighting, the dog stood still and didn’t start attacking. After we finished off the monks, we were shocked when the dog transformed into a gnome! His name is Namfoodle, but he asked to be called Greenthumb. He is a druid who was in search of his friend Barleytooth, a rabbit. After we made introductions, we agreed to help him find Barleytooth and he to help out.

We spent some time debating what to do next, and here I made a difficult decision. There was a room with five monks all sleeping, which Alvalore confirmed by sliding in. Knowing that they would not surrender (or were highly unlikely to since not one had surrendered yet), I decided to enter and kill them in their sleep, may Aeylan forgive me. Dragoslav Drake actually pulled me aside and offered to do the deed himself, for which I am grateful, but a leader must be able to follow through with ugly decisions and not pass them on to others. Is this a continuance of the slippery slope I’m heading down. As we delve deeper and deeper into this cult of Ogremach and to find out if any paladins remain, I feel I’m falling further away from what I should be. Is this all worth it if we can find out the truth of what happened? Does the end justify the means, or is this a test by Aeylan that I’m failing. Maybe the problem is that I’m not the right person for the job. As a paladin I’m trained to lead men, to act with chivalry and honor, to defend castles and besiege them, to work as part of an army. As a member of the gauntlet we are taught to work as a team and depend on each other. Yet here I am alone in many ways, with no other members of the order, with a random band of other adventurers fighting a zealous cult that sacrifices people to a forgotten god, and fight with such fervor that they won’t surrender, even when offered quarter. So I make these decisions in a vacuum, knowing that my survival is important to solve this mystery and that I am responsible for the lives of those who fate has joined with me. As I walked down the hallway to do this heinous deed, I knew that by doing this my companions had a better chance of survival and that my mission had a better chance to succeed…but it was still wrong. Our new comrade Greenthumb seemed to sum up everything quite well as I heard him say as I walked into the room, “So we are just going to hang around and wait while he goes into that room to murder those guys?”

After murdering the monks (or was it before – the last five minutes has been a blur), we ran into some duerger who were coming up from the mines. I had one of them come with me (still dressed in Braxis robes thinking I was Qarbo) and we subdued him as the others went to their quarters. Not sure how we engaged Qarbo, but we ended up battling in the hall outside his room. It was Qarbo, his two bodyguards, the duergar, and the minotaur front entrance guard all in combat. It was actually one of our most organized and effective battles. Our new members showed their worth immediately with Alvalore being extremely adept at close quarters fighting, and Greenthumb casting two useful spells – the first clogged the hallway with vines preventing the enemy from gathering together and the second froze Qarbo so that I could finish him off. Yotho lobbed spells here and there effectively and Drake effectively supported the attack with well timed strikes at vulnerable enemies. Krug again magically appeared at the other end of the hallway, to personally engage the minotaur and showed another new magical skill as he made a number of images of himself, so they enemy didn’t know which the real one was. After defeating Qarbo, his Black Earth guards and the minotaur, I demanded the surrender of the duergar, who, thank Aeylan, acquiesced. We got some useful information from them and sent them on their way from the keep with no weapons.

I decided to put on the heavy armor of Qarbo’s guards, which might again help us manueveur through this difficult task. We’ve gone through the weapons and equipment of the dead, patched ourselves up, and now need to focus on the task ahead…defeating Helen Rae, the head of the monks and further exploring the keep, both up and down, in hopes of finding out how the paladins were defeated. May Aeylan guide my sword and my soul.

Devinson's Journal #3
Game 6?

I sit here resting after we have planned an attack on the cult of Ogremach that has taken over the Everwatch Keep. Reflecting back on the events that happened in Red Larch, it is not surprising that I have not wanted to write them down. I don’t even think I want to write them now too, but my mind has been preoccupied with my failings in the town.

As someone devoted to Aeylan, I wonder how I have strayed so much from the truth. I know that I’ve lied in search of a greater truth and finding out what has happened to the Paladins is of utmost importance, so maybe small lies for a greater truth is a necessary evil. My first lies came as we walked into town. One of the town leaders asked if I was a Paladin, and I denied my calling, fearful that the town would be put on alert, especially if anything to do with the missing Paladins happened in town. Later, when my failings of the flesh took root and I found comfort with a young lady I had requested be sent to my quarters, I lied to Dragoslav in saying the the woman who ran the bar had sent her to me in hopes that I would want her, and instead questioned her about the town (which I did after I slept with her) and then sent her on her way, Aeylan forgive me.

As we finally got to the bottom of what was happening and how much of the town had succumbed to the promises of a false god, even the priest himself leaving his calling to worship a stone god. How does one let that happen. How did Braxis, leading a community of good people, fall to false gods and abandon or worse sacrifice his flock to such a god. If that could happen to him, could it happen to me. It won’t, as long as Aeylan protects me from such weakness.

There is more to focus on now than that. As we travelled toward Everwatch Keep, we came across another monk – how I detest those zealots worshipping Ogremach – in battle with a pair of manticore that had attacked their group. All had died except one. Once we rescued him and drove off the manticores, with support from Dragoslav and Yotho, and somehow Krug magically appearing high up on the ledge without climbing, I aggressively questioned the monk, whose name is Alvalore. Apparently he had been convinced by another monk that his own calling of monks was misguided and he joined with these monks. After spending time with them, he realized what the true outlook of the monk of Ogremach was and decided to leave. He was heading to Red Larch and was going to flee them there when his band was attacked. I believe him and he has decided to join us and return there and help us rid the keep of this evil that has plagued it. Alvalore has shared his extensive knowledge of the Keep with us and we have a plan that we will shortly be executing, Aeylan willing.

Devinson's Journal #2

We arrived in Sera Tin-Opal and were met there by Aurora Inistra who discussed with us the missing Valiants of the Everwatch Keep and the oracle. It seems that Aurora is clearly an ally. She has concerns about the oracle and believes in what my uncle has to say. She says that she is helping us in an unofficial capacity, as many here also do not believe what the oracle has to say. Complacency runs rife through Bellenos, apparently. She has asked us to travel north and see what is going on with the Valiants who have not reported in by bird message in a number of weeks. Apparently, she (and my uncle) think the two may be connected. She also mentioned that there was unrest in Rooin due to attacks by Fyrnorian giants. This has put pressure and tension on the Glorisons of Rooin and because of this some trade caravans had been treated poorly there – some wagons and people have even gone missing. After talking, she sent us with one of her underlings to an inn where we rested from the journey east. He gathered supplies for us, and we spoke one last time with Aurora and departed for Rooin, a journey that was to take several weeks time. Hopefully when we return successfully from our mission, Aeylan willing, I can make arrangements for Aurora to give me an intimate tour of Sera Tin-Opal.

Travel through Phaedrii was pleasant and no trouble came our way. As we neared the border with Rooin, things changed. We met a caravan that was almost kept from leaving Rooin by the closing of the border. Dragoslav cleverly purchased some trinkets from the caravan master, which made him more forthcoming in his talk. We debated a number of ideas on how to get into Rooin, but the weather and mountainous conditions made it unlikely that we could get around the border pass without great difficulty and posing as tradesman seemed unlikely to work, so I decided that the truth (as Aeylan teaches) was the best way through.

When we arrived at the border crossing, it looked like they had crafted a small fort to guard the crossing and keep people out (and in?) Rooin. A number of caravans had made a makeshift camp outside the walls having been refused entrance. I approached the commander there, spoke of our mission, mentioned that the Warmaster (?) of Rooin would have liked to help with the investigation of the missing Valiants, but was unable to because of the incursions of the giants (we had heard this from ______). Through Aeylan’s guidance, I was successful and as we passed through the gates, we were warned to be wary on the road since they were not as safe as usual.

Our first stop was Warwatch, the capital city. Our friend Krug seemed (again) to draw some unkindly looks and I had to persuade the innkeeper of the one inn in Warwatch that he was not going to be made to sleep in the stables. I had a bit of entertainment as Dragoslav was caught checking out the innkeeper’s wife. It looked like it could’ve come to a nasty encounter, but Yotho swept in to rescue his master’s by purchasing an expensive bottle of wine. It diffused the tension, but I do find it interesting that Dragoslav and his man like to solve problems by spending money. However, money doesn’t buy loyalty, trust, and honor – hopefully they will learn this lesson. But I may have also learned a lesson – instead of intervening as I probably should have, my irritance at Dragoslav got the best of me and I made the choice to watch instead of act. What would’ve happened had the innkeeper turned violent? Was that momentary guilty pleasure worth the risk of bloodshed? I must do better. One other note about Yotho – he mentioned that in his youth he was poor and needed to steal bread. As much as I don’t understand the plight of the poor, this seems an excuse not worth much – how many of the poor live lives of honest work – not stealing from their brethren to survive? And how does someone with unscrupulous habits end up involved with a noble family of Mun-Palass? I’m interested in both his past and that of Dragoslav and his family…I’m sure our time together will allow me to learn about them.

We left Warwatch to head north to the town of Redlarch, a town we heard not so many good things about in our travels. If there is a center of the anger and inhospitality of Rooin, it seems like it could be here. As we travelled we soon found that the Glorison at the gate was correct about the danger of this road. As we ate dinner on a blustery night two days out of Warwatch, Dragoslav heard a scream through the wind. Moving quickly to find the source, we sighted a cave which clearly was a base for bandits plaguing the road and they had captured their most recent wagon and captives. Krug and I made our way straight toward the debris of a wagon in front of the cave entrance, while Dragoslav and Yotho worked around to a flanking position. We saw two goblins and though we killed one the other escaped past Yotho and Dragoslav. Still hearing cries, I made the call not to pursue the last goblin into the woods and instead help the captives.

We entered the cave which had both a path and a stream the led out of it. Sticking to the path we came across two chained “guard-wolves” which I’m sure alerted the rest of the goblins to our presence. Luckily they could not reach us because of their chains and we moved ahead quickly. As we examined the room from the entrance, I realized that we were dealing with more than bandits. The unholy, evil monster in charge of this operation was hanging its dead victims from chains above the wolves heads, where I assume they would use them as food. As much as I wanted to give the dead a rightful burial, it was more important to focus on the living, so we ventured further into the stream. Turning a corner, I was shot at by two goblins on a platform above the walkway and stream. It took us longer than it should have to deal with them (in fact one fled to alert others) but eventually Krug lifted Dragoslav up to the platform and he dispatched the goblin in one thrust.

Thinking that the passage at the top of the platform was going to connect up with the path we had been following, we split up with me accompanying Dragoslav on the upper level and Krug and Yotho moving around the lower level. Sure enough, I was correct and we found four armed goblins waiting for us. Two went for each group. Dragoslav and I both finished ours quickly, while Krug was even quicker using some sort of magic that he naturally invokes. Smashing the ground with his huge hammer, he created a thunderous explosion that killed both goblins and sent them flying, as well as leaving a ringing in my ears. If they hadn’t known we were in the cave (which they did) they definitely would know now!

We then entered the final chamber where the screaming had been coming from all along. In the chamber was a poor trading family who were caged by the mad creature running this bandit hellhole, a Kanondan Bloodslaker, a worshiper of Khloh K’tan, god of blood and torture, which makes everything we had seen make sense. He had a few goblins serving him and we went to battle. One thing I nearly forgot was the bear he had also caged. I was concerned that it was his “pet”, but turned out to be wild and not under his control. The battle was pitched with the Bloodslaker seemingly stronger than Krug and more skilled in combat than myself. However, teamwork won the day. As Krug and I battled the Bloodslaker, Dragoslav worked on the goblins and Yotho unleashed some powerful magic that caused lightning to continually blast into the Kanondan. Teamwork was paramount here as the rest of the three of us defended Yotho from attacks so he could maintain his concentration on the magic. Eventually this, Krug and my attacks, purfied with the blessings of Aeylan allowing me to smite the creature, and with the bear breaking loose and attacking that demon, allowed glory to come to Aeylan by putting that beast down where he can cause no more harm or chaos in this world. We, of course freed the captives and found enough supplies for them to make it back to where they came from, along with some goods to raise money with, some of which was theirs anyway. We found our first “treasure” which is why most people go on these adventures. This has no meaning to me except as a way to send a tithe in honor of Aeylan to my church and also to better equip ourselves for the fight ahead.

Unfortunately, my decision not to pursue the goblin came back to haunt us, as the goblin that escaped from in front of the cave took our ponies with most of our supplies. Now we must turn back to Redrorch or Warwatch to use our treasure that we found to resupply for the trip north. Hopefully this delay will not be a hinderance to our mission.

One thing that concerns me or that I question is whether this type of evil has always been here or if it is a manifestation of the predictions that we our looking into. Is this just a harbinger of things to come? If so, what horrors are we to face? I must pray to Aeylan to give us strength to bring light to the world.

I’ve come back to the journal a few hours since I last wrote. Another concern has crept into my mind. The lightning that Yotho used…was that similar to what the necromancer used on mea year ago? If so, is it just magic that can be used by anyone or only the evil? Did Yotho use it because he had to, or did he enjoy using it. Is that any different between the joy I feel as Aeylan’s blessing pours through me blessing my weapon to unleash holy damage on those opposing his will? I must be cautious around my companions…but how can we succeed if we don’t trust another. I wish I had my father or uncle nearby to hear their counsel, or some other Valiant…but I guess this is my path and the choices I need to make…may Aeylan let me see the light and the truth.

Journal write up

Great job on the write up rich. Also love the character images. Todd, your turn on character page

Devinson's Journal
Game #1

Strange few days. As I stood on the deck of the Cloudbreaker , the Ae-Ship taking me (and my crew?) to Sera Tin-Opal as my uncle bid, (I am to meet with a contact in hopes of learning more about the Prophecy spoken by a seer (most say mad woman) who spoke before the Aegis League and was condemned by most, except my uncle) I had an oddly vivid flashback to the day I met my crew those accompanying me on this task…

It was about a year ago, at the Feast of the Bloodkin War, our celebration of independence from the dandies of Mun-Palass, when I had just met my future wife’s – ugh so hard to imagine that day looming like a storm cloud over my future – bastard brother, Dragoslav and his man, Yortho. They had come to “accompany me” or babysit me until my nuptial day, and here I was hosting two Mun-Palassians while celebrating our freedom from them – not the evening I had in mind…

As we sipped beers, the door burst in and in fell a beautiful woman…I was shocked to see it was a face from my past. I had looked for her as clandestinely as I could for years ever since the day she nursed me back from that injury…anyway, it was Deidre, hurt badly. I quickly called forth a blessing from Aeylan and healed her and called out for help in seeing what caused this. Dragoslav and Yortho came reluctantly, but to my surprise the Goliath in the corner also shot up – must have been looking for some action. His white, scalish skin that I could see beneath his furs was disturbing, but more so was the magic he conjured in a way I had never seen to produce light to guide us.

The light only allowed us to see where we were going, the destination was clear…a giant purple font of energy was pouring down from on high from the boneyard…not a good sign. We moved to the boneyard and when we arrived, I saw a hideous sight…the dead rising from their graves. I knew that this was to be a test from Aeylan, blessed be the Truthbringer. I quickly blessed Dragoslav to keep him safe from those abominations. With the Barbarian Krug at my side and Dragoslav and Yortho taking up rearward positions – how noble – we engaged the undead. The light seemed to be emanating from the plateau atop of the boneyard, so as soon as I felt my companions could handle the skeletons, I continued to push forward while they finished off the previous group, as they came in waves. If it were not for Krug’s powerful swings with his maul, the skeletons could have been difficult to send back to rest.

I finally pushed through to the top of the plateau, with Yortho at my side when I sight that sickened me filled my vision: a foul blaspheming necromancer was summoning the dead along with four thralls of his (which I was to find out was incorrect). Four more skeleton’s rose to come to me when I was appalled to hear Dragoslav’s braying voice calling for aid – he had been somewhat injured by a skeleton. Instead of the tactical sound decision to stand ground and face our foes, Yortho ran back to aid his master, a move that could have doomed us. Luckily, I held our ground until Krug could arrive, followed by Drago and Yortho, and we continued our push.

When I finally broke free from the bony ones, I sprinted to plow through the blasphemer’s followers, only at the last second realizing they were more of the undead: zombies. As I fought them and my companions came forward, through Aeylan’s blessing and the inspiration I felt flow from him, I used my faith in His teachings to weather a number of spells hurled in my direction from the necromancer. Krug and I once again took the front lines, the other two stayed back in support. However, from some magic, the necromancer transported himself behind Yortho. There, I saw the value of our support personnel. As the necromancer engaged Yortho, Drago moved behind him in a flanking position – sound tactics. Unfortunately, his attack missed and the necromancer turned with some wicked lightning spell and lashed out at Drago with it. Yortho, enraged by the attack on his master picked, the necromancer up and hurled him into a gravestone, breaking the injurious spell. seeing my chance to end things I broke from the remaining zombies and forced the necromancer to submit, praised be Aeylan.

Of course, Aeylan rewards those who serve him faithfully, so when I returned the necromancer to the House of Arms and the Valiants there, they approved of my actions (helped by my comrades) and took me back into training for my final oath and my initiation as a full-fledged Valiant. This training took the better part of the year, which could not be broken for a marriage and luckily my uncle requires me to attend this urgent quest, again putting off that painful day. I found Krug, who had been passing time as a mercenary, to accompany me – he proved valuable in that battle a year ago, though his “magic” is disconcerting – he will have to beware in Phaedrii. Feldra’s family must have spies among the servants of my family or my uncle’s, since no sooner had I returned home, did Drago and Yortho show at my family’s doorstep again. However, this pressing matter could not be put off, so they’ve accompanied my on this task, also. The flashback has reminded me that we need to talk. They are clearly not battle hardened warriors, but as they showed, they do have skills that could be useful. However, if we do not learn to work together, and something else like that night happens again, we could all end up dead.

As it is time to sleep I will try to dream of Deidre and the times I was able to slip away from training to spend a delightful few hours or even an occasional night with her. I hope she received the message that Willam had delivered to her to tell her of my departure. Actually before I sleep I must check on him, Philip and Davis, I know they are nervous of this flying ship, but not as much so as Krug.

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