Last night our sleep was disturbed by a wounded Dire Bear wandering into our camp! Azuredee managed to rouse me from sleep in time to help defeated the wound-maddened creature before it killed us. We sustained a few injuries, but nothing my cousin’s healing powers could not handle.
4 Starfall 508
Today we arrived in the village of Wycliff. It sits at the base of the truly impressive Wizard’s Peak. We are staying in an inn called “The Wizard’s Flame”. As usual, my cousin is performing this evening. She really has the crowd in the palm of her hand. Tomorrow we will head to the Tower itself.
We’re not sure how we’re going to approach our problem. I think the direct route would be best but Azuredee is not so sure. She thinks we should first attempt to do research on Athanasius of Sianae while there, perhaps gain a clue as to what the parchment actually means. I will follow her lead.
We were admitted by liveried Tower guards and introduced to Landros of the Peak, the chamberlain for the Tower. He arranged for us to share a guest room and briefed us on the amenities available to guests of the Tower. We introduced ourselves as wanting to do research on Athanasius and so were directed to the “common library” on the first floor of the Tower. Indeed, the first floor is the only floor on which my cousin and I are allowed admittance. I have the distinct impression that there are other less-common libraries on the upper floors. At any rate, the librarian (whose name was Andros) assisted us in finding various biographies on the ancient wizard, as well as some of the treatises that he had written during his life.
Tomorrow we attack the books again. I am not looking forward to it.
6 Starfall 508
What a glorious day! I only wish Istvan had been here to revel in it.
It began dully enough, with more dry reading and research in the common library. We went through so much material and still got no closer to finding a clue about Anglorion or the keys. The only mention of the object we had was in reference to it being given over to Athanasius’ care once the bard Ithraniel Starshadow had died. Nothing more could be found.
So, Azuredee approached Landros and asked directly about the keys to Anglorion. The old man sighed and said “The time has come, then.” After confirming that we were seeking the lute and that we had the other keys, he lead us into a chamber beneath the Tower. There were no other doors than the one we came in through, but there was a glowing circle of light. We were directed to enter the circle in order to enter “Athanasius’ Labyrinth”. But the chamberlain asked us repeatedly if we were determined to pursue this, for, according to him, though the labyrinth contained treasures and that which we sought, it also contained creatures and traps and was quite dangerous. Azuredee assured him that we were determined to continue. And so, together, my cousin and I entered the labyrinth.
Entering the circle, we found ourselves in a stonework room with strange glowing crystals providing the only light. From there, we entered the labyrinth. We encountered many rooms and corridors along the way. As the chamberlain warned, we also encountered various magical traps and creatures—though none that did not fall to my axe. In the end we found ourselves in a room where a now-familiar pitch pipe and a piece of parchment floated in the center of the chamber. Azuredee took both and read the parchment: “The Key is Now Complete. Compose a song of victory and Anglorion shall be yours.”
So my cousin blew all four pitch pipes to obtain the “key” and then composed a song. However, it was apparently not victorious enough for the likes of Athanasius of Sianae, for we found ourselves back at the beginning of the labyrinth.
We made our way through the traps and creatures again, finding ourselves back in the room where we found the final pitch pipe. Azuredee composed another tune—and we found ourselves back at the beginning—again.
Again, we fought our way through the labyrinth and to the final room. And, again, my cousin composed a song. This time she only sang the tune—and it was beautiful. One of her best. And before us appeared a pedestal upon which sat a beautifully made lute. Azuredee reached out and took the instrument and then the both of us were back in the room with the circle of light. Apparently many hours had passed and the chamberlain had set one of his fellows to watch for us. The chamberlain was sent for and we have spent the night celebrating in the common room with the wizards.
Victory achieved. Achieved at great cost, but achieved at last.
Last night I was disturbed from my watch by a beautiful sight. A treant made its way slowly through the forest. It was a wondrous thing seeing such a huge creature glide its way through the trees. I woke my cousin to let her witness the sight as well. I think she wrote a song about it.
Today we continued through the forest on our way to the city.
9 Starfall 508
Our nights continue to be eventful. Last night I was attacked by owlbear as it blundered its way through the woods. Fortunately I was able to dispatch it quickly and no one was hurt. I anticipate that we will break out of the forest tomorrow.
11 Starfall 508
Today was an eventful day. I am beaten and exhausted but satisfied that justice has been done.
It began when we entered the city of Pylar on the Leilioran side of the river. As usual, Azuredee got directions to a good inn from one of the guardsmen at the front gates. We were directed to the Whistling Ghost Inn—which supposedly has a ghost haunting it, though I’ve yet to see or hear it. One our way to check into the inn, we saw a merchant be accosted by some sort of feral child. The lad was no more than fourteen years of age and apparently pick-pocketed the plumb merchant, who responded in the usual way of yelling for others to stop the thief. What made this situation unusual was the lad’s reaction—he turned back toward the merchant and hissed in a very animalistic way. His canines were elongated and he had a crazed look in his eye. We couldn’t do much about, impeded on the busy street by our livestock and our cart. But it was a strange thing. The boy disappeared into the crowds.
We continued on to the Whistling Ghost. There we met a barmaid named Marta who was weeping for her lost son, Ulwin. Like most eleven-year old boys in the city, he played in the streets while his mother worked in the inn. Apparently, about a week ago, the boy never came home. The watch was called but little has been done. Both my cousin and I took pity on the poor woman and determined to find her boy. According to the woman, Ulwin hung around with another boy named Castor. We went to her neighborhood to ask around for more information.
Asking around the streets, we kept hearing about a figure known only as The Beggar King who was known to snatch up children and use them for his nefarious purposes. It was widely supposed that any child that came up missing in past couple of years was probably a victim of this shadowy criminal.
We finally came upon Castor playing ball with a group of other children. He agreed to show us the route that Ulwin would have taken to come home after playing on the day he went missing. We explored the route and made inquiries along the way as to whether or not anyone had seen what had happened to Ulwin about a week past. Suddenly, Azuredee and I found ourselves in a dead end street. Here a group of five ruffians, none over the age of 16, were harassing a man, trying to get him to turn over his pouch.
I strode forward and challenged them to seek riskier prey. They turned to me and…hissed, displaying outsized canine teeth and red-rimmed, feral eyes. Then they rushed us. The man exited the street as fast as he could while my cousin and I found ourselves surrounded.
I didn’t want to harm these children, so I used the flat of my blade. Soon, between my force of arms and Azuredee’s spells, we had the group subdued—save one—who turned into a dire rat and tried to get away! Azuredee spelled it to sleep before it could scurry to far away. As a safety measure, I clocked it in the head to ensure it would not wake up too soon.
We took the burlap cloaks they wore and made bindings for them all. I grappled with one until we could get him properly bound. He was a fighter. He spat and hissed the entire time. Azuredee attempted to question him, but to no avail. He just kept reiterating how the Beggar King would make us pay for this. I went to get one of the folks in the neighborhood to fetch the guards (this cost me a gold piece) while Azuredee fascinated the young lad with her music, allowing her to question him more easily.
He and about thirty others apparently worked for the Beggar King. He was afflicted, as were they. The lad had been “recruited” by one of the King’s lieutenants, a man named Tyrus. Apparently, the Beggar King provided his underlings with parts of the treasure they took and with protection. The lad felt that no one would want to take in someone afflicted such as he. The so-called “King” laired below an abandoned temple to Sadum somewhere in this district.
Eventually the guards arrived, lead by a Sergeant Leeta. They collected the bound lads and led them to the Watchtower to await trial for their crimes. They even collected the unconscious dire rat. We decided to make our way to this abandoned temple.
We found the temple, nestled between another series of abandoned buildings and run-down houses. It had clearly seen better days. Inside it was dark and smelled of dust and rat feces. We made our way cautiously through the building, thinking that there might be sentries of some sort watching the entry ways. We found none.
In the sanctuary, we found a locked set of double doors. As Azuredee attempted to pick the locks, we were accosted by five dire rats that had wandered in from one of the adjacent rooms. As we weren’t sure if these were normal dire rats or more of the feral, shapeshifting, children, we used the flat of our blades to dispatch the vermin. Soon, five unconscious dire rats lay at our feet.
Azuredee managed to open the lock on the double doors, which led to a long chamber ending in a staircase heading down. We cautiously proceeded down the staircase into a stone corridor. As we explored, Azuredee would carefully check the ground for traps and would also use her spells to look for magic in the area. We did not know what sort of defenses this Beggar King had at his disposal. Sure enough, Azuredee found a trap in the corner of the corridor. She finally managed to disable the thing—which would have resulted in a scythe dropping on us from the ceiling. We continued on into what was clearly an entry chamber for a series of mausoleums bearing a variety of sarcophagi. All of the sarcophagi we found had been opened and rummaged through. As we made our way from chamber to chamber we came across several swarms of normal rats as well as groups of dire rats. The swarms with dispatched with gusto—the dire rats, less so, using the flat of our blades. Both Azuredee and I suffered numerous bites from the filthy vermin. Azuredee also found several traps along the way—though she found at least a couple the hard way and was punctured by poisoned arrows. She took an antitoxin to help fight off their effects. One of these traps also set off a series of bells in the next room.
We now found ourselves in a large chamber. Bells continued to ring as we took in the sight. This one, too, housed about six sarcophagi, all in disarray. Sitting in front of a stone mausoleum was a man sitting on a makeshift throne made from various bones found throughout the crypt. Beside him were two other men, both armed. In the room—which smelled of rat feces, sweat, and refuse—were also about six of the feral children. One of them fit Ulwin’s description. The man on the throne rose and pointed at us, commanding the feral children to kill us.
Azuredee and I stood our ground and met the children with the flat of our blades and my cousin’s spells. As they moved toward us the children—changed—into strange half-human, half-rat, hybrids. They were horrible to behold—the more so because they were just children. We soon had the group subdued and were then met by the two men that had flanked the one I assumed was the so-called Beggar King. These two were also changed into half-man, half-rats. First they threw daggers at us and then met us in combat. They wielded rapiers and would also try to bite us. These, too, we dispatched—one was definitely killed, though the other may have survived unconscious. Both Azuredee and I managed to be bit in the process. Finally, the Beggar King himself approached us with a short sword. He, too, had changed.
It was a long battle with the Beggar King. Azuredee tried to boost my courage with her songs, but he was a tough opponent. I also think that perhaps a different weapon than my magic axe would have been more effective against the creature—I just did not damage him as much as I think I should have. Nevertheless, I finally struck the odious beast down as the echoes of Azuredee’s song filled the room. We took the lieutenant’s and the Beggar King’s money—thinking it would make fine restitution to Marta. Also, we took some vials that the the three carried. The rest we left for the guardsmen that we would fetch.
We made our way through the crypt to ensure that the guards would encounter no more wererats. All we encountered were more traps that kept puncturing my cousin with arrows and filling her with poison and more rats. We also encountered more dire rats, which we dispatched with the flats of our blades, just in case they were really children. Finally, we arrived back at the entry chamber. We made our way out of the crypt and the temple and traveled to the Watchtower to make our report to the watch.
Fortunately, Azuredee did the talking because the guardsman on duty believed our story. He took our statements and sent guards to the temple to apprehend the unconscious children and criminals. We, exhausted and covered in blood, made our way back to the Whistling Ghost Inn just as the sun began to go down. Amazingly, Azuredee still performed tonight, despite our days long efforts, and did very well. Anglorion truly is a beautiful instrument, made the more so in the hands of my cousin.
I, for one, am going to sleep.
12 Starfall 508
We met with Marta this morning to give her news about her son, though apparently the city watch had beat us to it. He is being held until he goes to trial later in the week to determine if he was involved in any criminal activities. If he is found innocent, the city will see to it that his affliction is cured—but at Marta’s expense. She will be given so much time to recompense the city for the healing. This will come to some 360 gold—more money than the poor woman has ever seen before in her life. I worry that she will end up going to debtor’s prison if the city does not take pity upon her and give her time. We gave her the money we took off of her son’s kidnappers—some 50 gold. Hopefully that will start her on the way to being able to pay her debts.
We also met with Bishop Kiran of the temple of Halor about the possibility of being cured of any diseases we may have contracted. We were examined by the priests and it was determined that Azuredee most likely had the lycanthropic disease—but they were not sure about me. We decided to pay for the church’s healing for both of us, just in case. I did not want to become one of those creatures. So after we made the proper contribution to the church’s coffers (which nearly wiped out our community funds), we were healed of all diseases by Halor’s healing light.
Azuredee apparently heard a ghost in her room last night. I didn’t hear a thing, but she swears she heard something whistling a tune. She managed to duplicate the tune on her lute, but I never heard it. I think her imagination may be getting away from her.
I am ready to be on my way from this city, but tomorrow we will see the trial of the so-called “Beggar King” and be on hand should the magistrate need us. The sooner justice is done, the better.
13 Starfall 508
Today we witnessed the trials of all involved in the Beggar King affair. The Beggar King himself, a thief by the name of Davvin, was sentenced to death for his crimes. As was his surviving lieutenant, Tyrus. Most of the children—including Ulwin—were found innocent and will be released with healing at the expense of their families. The others were sentenced to jail terms as befit their criminal activities. They, too, will be healed of the affliction at the expense of their families. This means a lot of people with very little means will be owing the city of Pylar quite a bit of money. Unfortunately, this is the law and the price of justice.
Today has proven to be quite an eventful leg in our journey.
We started the day by visiting with Marta and givng her the 50 gold pieces we had obtained from her son’s abductors. She seemed a bit mystified, but grateful. Hopefully it will help her procure a cure for her poor son. It is only fitting that his kidnappers pay for his treatment.
We crossed the bridge over into Pylar’s sister city, Hollton, putting us in the country of Ornis once again. Continuing east, we crossed the entirety of that city, moving ever towards the elven lands. Apparently, the city is quite reverent of the god Vandar, as there is a large temple to the Lord Binder in the city center. I was almost sorry to leave Pylar-Hollton, it’s such a pretty city. But leave, we must.
After exiting Hollton, we soon came upon the remains of a small village on the banks of the Mondira River. A small group of villagers gathered outside the smoking remains of their homes. We rode up and inquired as to what happened.
Apparently the village had suffered an attack from a small band of hobgoblins. The ran through, burning as they went, jumped on the ferry, crossed the Mondira, and then cut the ferry line as they escaped. The villagers were busy putting out fires as the band ferried their way to freedom.
Azuredee and I decided to help the villagers repair their ferry, as it was the primary form of livelihood in the settlement. We accompanied the ferryman and his two companions to the riverfront where the pier for the ferry stood. The ferryman and I pulled in the remains of the ferry rope, confirming that it had been severed at the other end. The two companions, two sturdy youths, swam out to the abandoned craft and attempted to push-pull it back to the pier on our side. They were unsuccessful and returned. Azuredee indicated that she could use her arcane magic to repair the rope to the ferry if she could just get to the other side. She unloaded her horse and decided to swim her across the river to connect the other piece of rope. She, fortunately, made it across to the ferry and reconnected the rope. Then the youths swam out to the craft once again and brought it back to the village, intact.
The ferryman allowed us to cross the river without charge in thanks for the repairs. Soon, we were on our way again.
Azuredee and i decided to track down these hobgoblins and deal with them so that they were no longer a threat to neighboring villages. Unfortunately, neither of us are trackers by trade, but we were able to find tracks in the soft earth of the river bank that put us onto their trail.
We followed the tracks northeast to a small rise. There we found a lone sentry who, after spotting us (we were trailing them in a cart, after all), ran down the other side of the rise, presumably to alert his compatriots.
As we debated our next course of action, two archers came up over the rise, took up positions and began firing on us. I mounted up on Brownie and charged up the hill while Azuredee followed behind on foot.
As we closed with the two archers, their compatriots began charging up their side of the rise to flank us. Soon, the archers were dispatched and we met our new challengers. After a fierce, but brief, fight, we managed to vanquish our foes with little damage to ourselves.
Azuredee collected the hobgoblins’ gear and loaded it into the wagon. We searched out their campsite and found literal buried treasure: a small box full of coins. This we collected as well and loaded it into the cart. We traveled a few more miles before the sun began to set and we made camp.
16 Starfall 508
Our travel through Yulania has been largely uneventful. The going is smooth and the weather agreeable—for summer in the south, at any rate.
This evening we did have one brief moment of excitement during my cousin’s guard shift.
She was alerted by the light scuff of a boot. She’s always been very alert—perhaps it is her half-elven heritage. At any rate, the small sound alerted her enough to cause her to turn and find a ragamuffin halfling with a dagger in her hand staring at her. Azuredee pointed her sword at the halfling and asked her what she was up to.
The halfling answered “I was, uh, looking for food.” However, her assertion was belied by the dagger in her hand and the murderous glint in her eye.
“Why don’t you just move on?” my cousin said.
The halfling backed away, nodding, and ran off into the night.
I have been on my guard throughout my shift but have, so far, seen no sign of the intruder.
We have established rooms in an inn called The Lone Wolf. After settling in and arranging for our clothes to be laundered in a nearby establishment, Azuredee entertained the inn with her wonderful voice and the dulcet tones of Anglorion. While my cousin does have a great deal of talent for music, it is clear that the magical lute allows her to play with an almost supernatural beauty. It is a wonder to behold.
Tomorrow we will sell off the gear that we confiscated from the hobgoblins and continue on our journey.
It feels—comforting—to be in my homeland once again.
22 Starfall 508
The past day has been most harrowing and difficult to process. I will do the best I can.
After traveling most of the day on the road east toward Ebongate, the clouds broke and we were caught in a heavy summer storm. As we debated how and where to camp for the evening, we came upon a sign indicating a side trail toward a village called Albasan. Thinking that we could perhaps find an inn, we made our way off the road toward the village.
The village itself was small and shabby and obviously had seen better days. The rain seemed to be keeping people inside as the streets were devoid of activity. We made our way to the town center where we found an inn, The Stalwart Steed. Its windows were boraded up and the building was in obviously disrepair. We did, however, see a bit of light shining from one of the windows.
We approached the inn cautiously and attempted to go inside but found that the door was locked. Azuredee rapped on the door, which was answered by a nervous, round-faced man with Yulanian features.
“Yes?” he asked.
Azuredee smiled and stepped forward. “Yes. We are weary travelers looking for shelter for the night from the storm. My we come inside?”
The man looked around before answering. “I’m afraid that the inn is closed.” Then he whispered to us, fervently, “You need to leave. Get out of this town. Please.”
Another voice called out from within. “Who is there?” Then the round-faced man was joined by another man, as thin-faced as his companion was round.
“Just some travelers that are moving on. You are moving on?” answered the round-faced man.
“You are to report to the Baron,” said the thin-faced man. “It is the law that all visitors are to report to the Baron.”
“That’s not necessary, Zaorovar. They are only traveling through. They are not visiting.”
The thin-faced man, Zaoraovar, was implacable. “No. It is the law. Go to the Baron. His manor is up on the hill.” Then he shut the door.
The two of us looked at each other as the skies continued to thunder. The innkeep was clearly frightened of something. And something odd was going on in this village. Looking to my oath to protect the innocent, and my cousin’s natural disposition to help people, we decided to see this Baron.
We traveled up the paved road to the manor on the hill. The gates to the grounds were open, but there were no staff or servants to meet us. The rain continued to pour. He tethered the horses out in front of the house and brought the cart to a halt. Then the two of us went to the front door.
Azuredee rapped on the door, which was answered by a lean man in his mid-thirties of Yulanian heritage.
“Yes? May I help you?”
My cousin stepped forward. “We are travelers, passing through your domain. We were told that you require all visitors to visit with you?”
The man seemed distracted. “Um…yes. Of course, yes.”
“I am Azuredee Silverthistle, a humble bard. This is my cousin, Alys Mournbow.”
Looking at me, the man, presumably the Baron, asked, “Are you a paladin?”
At the time, I found the hope in his voice unremarkable. Now, I realize why that voice was so raw, so needful.
“No,” I said. “I am a Knight of the Shield.”
“I see,” he said, his disappointment apparent in his fallen expression. “Well, please, come in out of the weather. Have a drink with me. Please.”
“What about our animals? Is there a place for them to stay?”
“Of course. Follow me.”
The Baron led us through a covered driveway into a courtyard where we could leave the cart and horses. He then led us down a hall into the manor proper until we arrived at his private office.
The manor was dusty and in obvious need of cleaning. The Baron’s office was cluttered and lived-in. Azuredee took a seat in front of the man’s desk while I stood in my armor. He poured us drinks from a decanter—his nervousness obvious in the way he dropped a glass and the way his hands shook as he poured the wine.
We spoke briefly of the deterioration of his village, receiving only vague explanations as to its cause. He also indicated that the inn had been closed due to non-payment of taxes. Azuredee, as per usual, offered to entertain the Baron with a song. He indicated that he would be happy to hear it.
As my cousin adjusted her position and readied Anglorion, she leaned into me and told me to watch the door. I didn’t understand what she meant, but vigilance is a knightly virtue. So I did. I saw nothing.
Azuredee played a moving song of peace and protection. It was beautiful…and brought our host to tears. After he calmed himself, he offered to allow us to stay in his home as guests, protected from the storm. We accepted, despite our heightened trepidation.
We were then escorted upstairs to the guest chambers. They lay at the top of a staircase, one chamber on each side of the landing. We entered mine first. There was a four-poster bed, a basin-stand, and a clothes-press. Azuredee searched out the room and found a secret door in the back wall. Both of us felt that, as a safety precaution, this door should be blocked. The strange behavior of the Baron and his villagers had us on edge. So we worked together and moved the clothes-press in front of the secret panel.
My cousin then went across the hall and searched out her nearly identical room. No twin secret panel was found. After a brief discussion, she opted to stay in my room with me and that we would take guard shifts, just in case. Azurdee took the first watch, I took the second.
I was awakened by the yells of my cousin in distress.
Stirring my slumber, I saw that the clothes-press had been overturned and that Azuredee was engaged in combat with two child-like creatures with red glowing eyes and fanged mouths. One, a girl, was slipping in grease on the back of the fallen wardrobe and the other, a boy, was trying to grapple with my cousin. Azuredee was pale, as if she had lost a lot of blood though, I could see no wounds upon her. I grabbed my nearby axe and set to work.
The feral children were tough opponents, quick and deadly. Further, they seemed to have the ability to suck the life energy from us when they struck us. Even my magic axe seemed to have a hard time cutting them. It was as if their wounds would start to close as soon as their skin was broken. Finally, I cut the boy down and he stopped lunging at Azuredee.
A woman’s voice, cruel and regal, said “Stop.” And I felt powerful hands seize my mind, gripping it like a vice. And I stopped, doing nothing but standing still. Then the child-thing latched onto me and began feeding on my blood. I could do nothing but let it. The woman laughed, calling out to her daughter to “Feed to her dark heart’s content.”
My cousin fought on against the other child, causing it to release me. But I could nothing. I watched as the thing continued to attack and suck the life from my beloved Azuredee and could do nothing, say nothing. I could only watch and listen to the Her voice, laughing at the futility of my cousin’s efforts.
Nevertheless, Azuredee fought on. As she began to get the better of her foe, the woman cried “No!” and slammed into my cousin, knocking her across the room. The woman then turned to mist and exited the room under the door.
My cousin kept fighting. Finally, Azuredee struck down the child. She then removed the heads from the children’s bodies and cast them into the secret corridor. She came to me and tried to get me to move, but I could not, would not. I willed her to go, get out of this hellish house and leave me behind, but she would not. We would die here together.
Then the headless children began to rise again.
Azuredee fought once again against the undead creatures. They seemed to be less effective—perhaps their missing heads made them blind. Nevertheless, my cousin is not a warrior and was fading fast. The creatures were relentless.
Then I heard Her voice in my head again, urging me to strike Azuredee down. I could never do such a thing, and the woman’s hold on my mind slipped away. It was as if my love for my cousin pried the woman’s fingers away from my will.
Blinking, I came to myself and took up my axe to defend my cousin.
Once I came to myself, we were able to make short work of the creatures. We put them down once again.
Azuredee and I embraced and she told that we needed to move quickly. She believed that we were dealing with vampires and would not have much time. We decided to get out of the house quickly and then, perhaps, seek out priests to help us eradicate the menace later.
We gathered our things and I strapped on my armor. We then carefully exited the room into the hall and started making our way out of the manor. I led the way while Azuredee followed behind with a mirror, believing that we could repel the vampire with the looking glass.
Suddenly, a mist appeared behind us and materialized into the woman. My cousin was right—she was able to hold her at bay with the mirror. We quickly marched toward the courtyard where the animals and the cart were waiting. The woman menaced us throughout the entire journey, but Azuredee manged to hold her back.
Finally we mounted up and rode hard out of the manor, just as the sun began to rise. The vampire stayed within the darkness of the courtyard, yelling to us as we rode into the dawn. “I will have you! Don’t dare sleep! You killed my children and I will have you!”
We rode on, passing through the village and onto the rode to Ebongate. There we will look for a priest and return to Albasan.