“Not all those who wander are lost.” - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
26-30 Illumination, 508. Although it took us a few days, we made it to the beach. Brother Thorne was still very concerned about the animated skeletons, but Surm was able to convince him that they were necessary to get ourselves … and our belongings … back safely. Brother Thorne was reluctantly willing as long as he could lay them to rest before we left the island. I could tell that the brothers, especially Morvar, seemed put out, but everyone agreed to the compromise.
25 Illumination, 508. Today, we explored the uppermost floor of the temple. This day is mostly a blur to me. We were attacked by shadows, which was the least of our troubles. Behind a set of double-doors we found a pentagram inscribed on the floor in blood, still looking fresh and liquid.
24 Illumination, 508. Upon waking, I still felt the effects of the shadow creature’s touch. I secretly feared that it may be permanent. Savaric opened the trap door in the floor and the briny smell of the ocean rose up around us. A rickety ladder led down into a darkened cave. As Surm’s dancing lights illuminated our way, we made our way down below.
The rocky floor of the cave stretched out a ways before us, sloping downwards into dark, still water that curved around the cavern and disappeared out of view. An old rowboat was beached on the shore. Perhaps this was a secret exit for the high-ranking priests? Turning, I could see a worked stone wall with another steel door set into its surface. Morvar decided to first examine the rowboat. Suddenly, Brother Thorne gave a warning cry as a grey tentacle emerged out of a stone column and swung straight at me. None of us had previously noticed the camouflaged blob-like creature. It quickly became apparent that the creature’s ooze was acidic and could damage our weapons and armor. I quickly switched to my longsword as the creature tried to envelop Morvar. I managed to slay to creature, but lost my longsword in the process. Morvar’s armor was damaged, but would be repairable.
There was a brief, yet heated, discussion on where to explore next. The brothers felt that we should return back up the ladder. I said that we should go through the door instead. Clearly, this was a well-secreted area and hopefully would hold more of interest. Eventually, my voice won out. The steel door was locked and Morvar took a moment to pick it open. When opened, the door led into a small room with a table, chairs, and two cupboards bearing similar items as before. Another locked steel door lay on the opposite side of the room, which Morvar was also able to unlock. We began to explore the hallway that lay on the other side.
Almost immediately, Savaric came upon a trap and called for us all to move back. Morvar tried to disarm the device, but accidentally tripped it instead. A huge ax swung down from the ceiling, narrowing missing the sorcerer. The trap didn’t reset itself, so we cautiously moved around it. A side corridor lead off to the left and dead-ended at a wall. Upon closer examination, another secret panel was found. This one opened onto a yet another corridor running to the left and right, the right-hand side ending at a flight of stairs leading up.
We decided to back track until we returned to the original corridor we had yet to finish exploring. Again, we came across a steel door. As Savaric approached the door, he felt stirrings of magic around him and quickly retreated. Morvar moved forward and discovered a magical trap upon the area. He was able to disarm it, preventing the corridor from being filled with fire. Savaric checked the door for traps, then, not finding any, called for Morvar to unlock it. It was quickly obvious that Savaric had not looked close enough. A magical arrow of acid shot from the lock and hit Morvar square in the chest. We moved rapidly to neutralize the acid, while Morvar made disgusted comments. Finally, however, the door was unlocked and we moved forward.
The door swung open to reveal a chamber with small pedestals scattered around the room, each bearing statues, jewelry, and other expensive-looking items. Morvar and Savaric searched carefully for more unpleasant “surprises,” this time truly finding none. However they found yet another secret panel. Morvar disarmed the trap and carefully opened the panel. A smaller room contained four pedestals on which more exquisite objects rested. Four sacks also sat upon the floor, each containing more of the strangely minted coins. Morvar began appraising the various objects in each room. While not the treasure we sought in this cursed place, my eyes widened when I realized the value of what we found.
After a bit of discussion, we decided to leave everything were it lay. This seemed to be as safe a place as any and thieves were the least of our worries. Our group returned to the yet-unexplored corridor. After verifying that the stairs led back to the ground level of the temple we had already explored, we followed the left-hand path. Another locked steel door blocked our way. Morvar was able to pick the lock open and we moved into a dungeon with ringed with a series of barred cells. Peering inside, we could see that several of the cells contained skeletons. A cabinet along one wall held old stained torture implements. Brother Thorne said a prayer over the poor souls who died here. I wanted Morvar to unlock the cells, but was eventually persuaded that it was best to continue on. Clearly, the doomed adventurers who came before us had not come this way. I silently offered a prayer to Bruni as we headed towards the stairs. May I fight bravely against the evil I knew still lay before us.
We were attacked by another shadow creature as we made our way upstairs. Our blades dispatched it quickly, but not before it laid its icy touch on myself and Morvar, draining part of our strength. On this floor, Savaric found evidence of footprints in the layers of dust. This seems to be our first indication that the ill-fated group that preceded us indeed passed this way.
A series of rooms and corridors lay before us. One room contained cabinets full of old, decaying scrolls. The brothers found three metal cases that contained scrolls with magical writing. We continued exploring. Opening doors to another room revealed a library. A sudden movement among the shelves revealed not another shadow … but a raven! Even more astounding was the fact that the creature seemed intelligent and could communicate with one or two words. It called itself Furfur and immediately took a liking to Morvar, but to his brother’s dismay. We decided to fortify ourselves in one of the rooms and camp before heading up the next flight of stairs.
23 Illumination, 508. I woke and was relieved to feel that my strength had completely returned. We broke camp and began making our way to the pyramid. As in the the forest, we heard no living sounds besides ourselves. We came to a barren fountain flanked by two dead trees. As we made to pass, a shadow creature peeled itself from one of the trees and attacked. Luckily, it was quickly dispatched.
We soon neared the pyramid. As we got close, we could see that the pyramid was covered in elaborate and gruesome carvings of men and women offering human sacrifices to demonic creatures. If all we had encountered had not been enough to convince me this was an evil place, this would have easily done so. We saw no door or entrance, so we began to circle around, trying to find a way inside. Finally, on the south face, we came across a set of double doors. Cautiously, we made our way closer. What horrible things would await us inside?
The doors opened up into a small room that was completely dominated by a large demonic statue that stretched out its cupped hands. I shuddered to look at it. The walls were painted red and gold, the color faded with age. A search of the room revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Silent corridors stretched out to the left and to the right of us. We chose to make our way down the former, Savaric scouting the way. An arched doorway opened up into a dark cavernous room. Surm called forth dancing lights to illuminate the chamber. A huge altar sat in the center with bones chained upon it. Against the back wall, sat another demonic statue flanked by two steel doors. Thick pillars supported the room of the chamber, each painted with scenes of priests committing acts of debauchery with demons.
We decided to first examine the left-most steel door. As we cautiously made our way, Surm kept his dancing lights moving through the room, wary of an attack. It was that which saved us. The sorcerer noticed a disturbance near the altar. Shadows swirled and drew together to form a humanoid form with glowing red eyes. Surm cried out an alarm as it sped quickly towards our group. It looked similar to the shadowy forms we had fought outside of the temple, but was larger. Brother Thorne’s prayers didn’t seem to effect it at all as it focused its attacks on Morvar. I managed to get behind the creature and strike it a mighty blow. Angered, it turned on me and I was unable to dodge in time. At its touch, I could feel my very vitality drain away. Finally, we managed to slay the shadow creature.
Savaric and Morvar searched out the chamber, but found nothing else of interest. Before we moved on, Brother Thorne spoke a short prayer over the bones on the altar. For hours we explored the moldering remains of what must have been sumptuous rooms and chambers at one time. We found two sets of stairs, one leading up and one leading down, but chose to fully explore the ground floor first. We encountered and dispatched one of the smaller shadow creatures, but found no evidence of the earlier, doomed party. Eventually, we found a small storeroom that Morvar excitedly pointed out must be the same one referenced in the journal fragments. He searched the room for any sign that the explorers had been here. At first he found nothing, but determinedly decided to search again. His perseverance paid off, for Morvar found a secret panel in one of the walls. The panel opened into a narrow corridor with a locked steel door at its end. Surm was able to pick the lock open, revealing a short length of hallway with trapdoor set into the floor. Three cupboards along the walls revealed ancient vestments, weapons, and some coins of a strange minting. As this corridor seemed like the most defensible place we had encountered so far, we closed the door behind us and gathered close to camp for the night.
22 Illumination, 508. Upon waking, I felt somewhat better, but not completely restored. We decided to bring whatever gear we thought needed for exploring the pyramid. It was clear that moving back and forth from our base camp would not be as easy as we first thought. We reentered the forest, following our trail. It had been a good idea to clear a path, as it took us a lot less time to reach the point where we had stopped the previous day. Savaric and I took point again, cutting a new swath through the undergrowth. We were attacked by another shadow creature during the day, but managed to dispatch it without too much trouble. As the sun began to set, we emerged from the dense forest. Before us rose two stone obelisks which framed an wide avenue that stretched out into a ruined city. The pyramid sat at the heart of the city, looming against the darkening sky.
We decided to make camp in a fairly sturdy looking building nearby. After thoroughly searching it out, we set up our packs in what was probably the main living area. None of our group wanted to be separated, even as we lay down to sleep. The night went by quietly until my watch. At some slight movement, I turned and found myself face to face with some sort of strange dog-like creature. Most disturbingly, it spoke to me in Tradespeak, promising me death. Calling out to my companions, I attacked. The creature was frustratingly hard to strike, seeming to blink in and out of the very air. Eventually, though, it fell to our blades. Savaric, who had dealt the last blow, decapitated the horrid beast. The rest of the night thankfully passed without incident.
21 Illumination, 508. The island of Silva came into view today. The crew lined the deck in silence, staring. I could just spot the top of pyramid-shaped structure over the dense forest that covered the island. The ship made anchor as we loaded our equipment into a small dingy. I said a silent prayer to Bruni as we were lowered into the sea. The first mate rowed us to a small strip of beach. Although the she may have been “crazy” enough to transport us to the island, I noticed the first mate wasted no time in returning to The Blackmoore Lady.
We set up our camp, everyone noticing how eerily quiet it was on the beach. There were no sounds of birds, insects, or any living thing save ourselves. It was still early in the day when we gathered our gear … and our courage … and headed into the woods. The dense trees and undergrowth made it very slow going. Morvar climbed a tree so we could get our bearings. In the far distance, the pyramid loomed. Using his compass to keep us going in the correct direction, Savaric led us through the woods. Suddenly, a monstrous creature stood up from the brush. It was humanoid in shape, but its face was one huge eye with a hideous maw ringed with rows of teeth. It turned and fixed its gaze on Surm. Savaric instantly attacked the creature and the rest of us moved to flank it. The battle didn’t last long, but was fierce. It also became clear that magical weapons had a much greater effect on the creature.
As the sun began to set, we paused for a moment to discuss the situation. Both Morvar and Surm identified the dead creature as an “outsider,” an aghash specifically. None of our group wanted to make camp while still in the woods, but we were not sure if we could reach the pyramid by nightfall. Surm pointed out that not only would the dense undergrowth make it difficult for us to find our way back to the beach, it would make it impossible if we needed to quickly flee. We decided to head back to our base camp and clear the brush as we went. It would be a slow process, but could possibly save our lives in the long run.
Savaric and I took the lead, hacking a path back to the beach. Again, without warning, a shadowy form detached itself from the forest and attacked. It was difficult to see the creature in the darkening forest and I was unable to dodge before the shadow struck me. At its cold touch, I could feel a part of myself drain away and felt weakened. My companions slew the shadow, but I was shaken by the encounter. I could withstand the biting blades of my enemies, but how could I fight a creature that fed on my very strength?
It was dark by the time we made our way back to our base camp. I immediately crawled into my tent, exhausted, praying to Bruni that I would feel restored in the morning. Our camp was attacked twice that night by more of the shadow creatures. I never stirred for the first battle, and for the second only because Surm entered my tent and shook me awake. I thanked the gods that my companions were able to defend the camp without my assistance. When I die, I pray that it is as I fight bravely on the battlefield, not as I lay sleeping defenseless in my tent.
19 Illumination – 20 Illumination, 508. We met Brother Thorne at The Blackmoore Lady just before dawn. We boarded the ship, stowed our belongings, and were soon on our way. I enjoyed being on the open sea again, but Surm turned nearly green as we made our way out of the harbor. It seems boats do not agree with him.
Over the next few days, we talked some with Brother Thorne about Halor and his tenants. Surm, perhaps rightfully so, wanted to make sure that our journey went as smoothly as possible. A haunted island filled with shadow creatures was not the place for our party to start fighting among ourselves. According to Brother Thorne, Halor’s followers believed in spreading the light for peace and justice, not revenge. However, willful and unrepentant acts of evil were not to be tolerated. I thought as long as long as Brother Thorne and Morvar did’t spend a lot of time alone together, our adventure would go smoothly.
Surm also took the opportunity to talk with Captain Heldane about the Island of Silvi. The Captain was incredulous that we wanted to go there, but Surm was able to strike up an arrangement. For a price, the ship would put anchor at a reasonable distance from the island. While the Captain wouldn’t set a toe on the island, he agreed that his first mate was just crazy enough to row our party to shore. Our group would make a base camp on the beach. After ten days, the ship would return. If we were ready to leave the island, we would make a signal fire to summon the first mate. If there was no fire, the ship would return in another ten days. If there was still no signal fire, then Captain Heldane could assume there were no survivors. It was a bit disconcerting to hear the arrangement laid out in such a way, but it seemed like the best plan for arranged transportation on and off the island.
18 Illumination, 508. The brothers bickered most of the morning until I wanted to knock their heads together. Fortunately, a messenger from Cuthmund Weldwyn arrived and we headed for his office. It appeared his research had paid off. Weldwyn had found a fragment of an hundred-year old journal written by a cleric of the goddess, Ithya. The cleric had hired an adventuring group to help explore the island of Salvi. In the journal, she referred to several powerful magic items that the group wielded, including a belt of that bestowed strength upon its owner. The group was plagued by dangerous beasts as well as shadow creatures that drained their strength. The cleric was the only survivor. Weldwyn explained that the island of Salvi, a narrow strip of land off the coast of Sianae, was considered by many to be haunted and most avoided it completely. The shadow creatures sounded particularly troublesome. Not having a cleric among us, we questioned Weldwyn about the local temples to deities of light or flame. We decided to seek out a priest of Halor, the Midron God of the sun.
Surm asked for directions to the temple district and soon we found ourselves at the temple of Halor. At our inquiry, we were directed to a man named Brother Thorne. The priest had just recently returned from another adventure. His calling was to travel the roads, spreading the “light of Halor” to chase away evil and darkness. Surm explained our intent to go to the Island of Silvi and some of the dangers that might await us on our journey. He also made it clear that the specific treasures listed in the journal would be ours, but the rest of the treasure we found would be divided equally. Brother Thorne was intrigued and agreed to join us.
We decided to head next to the docks and see if we could find transport to Sianae. Asking around, we discovered that The Blackmoore Lady was heading out in the morning. The captain, Danwulf Heldane, agreed to take us to Tipoli, the nearest port city to our destination. We returned briefly to Brother Thorne to confirm he could leave at first light, then spent the rest of the day provisioning ourselves for the journey. That night, Morvar broke the news to Seela that we would be leaving the city in the morning, but that he hoped to see her if our paths brought us back to Jenna. I cannot tell whether he will truly miss her, but I do not doubt that Surm will be glad to be rid of the young woman.
17 Illumination, 508. The young woman’s name, as it turns out, was Seela. As we breakfasted in the common room, she joined us much to Morvar’s delight and Surm’s disgust. She seemed genuinely taken with Morvar as he related tales of our adventures. The two of them flirted and whispered to each other until even I felt like rolling my eyes. We left the tavern before Surm said something regrettable. I hoped to find a shrine to Bruni to pay worship, but it appeared that Jenna had no temples to the Northron deities. I was disappointed, but it is most likely we will have to travel north again before I can find a place dedicated to His worship. Savaric, perhaps feeling disappointed that the dire wolf proved to be so easy to vanquish, wished to find a place to show off his fighting skills. It sounded like a good diversion, so Surm began asking around for fighting rings. Although it gained him a few disapproving looks, we finally gained directions to a disreputable bar called Greywolf’s where we should ask for “Rollgut.”
The atmosphere was as pleasant as to be expected, although no one gave us any trouble. The barkeep directed us to Rollgut, a half-orc sitting towards the back of the bar. Surm, as usual, began negotions with the half-orc, explaining that “his boy” wanted to get in on some bare-knuckled fighting. Rollgut, after appraising Savaric, agreed and led us down a back set of stairs. In the basement, a fight was already in progress. The air was thick with cheers and jeers and the smell of unwashed bodies. Rollgut explained that since he was a newcomer, Savaric’s odds would be set at 3:1 against his opponent, Wulfgar. He pointed to a very large human male, possibly a Northron from his size and coloration. Rollgut explained the basic rules: no armor, no weapons, and no magic. However, as we gathered to help Savaric remove his armor and weapons, Surm cast an armor spell on the half-orc. No one outside of our group noticed the magic, but I frowned. Morvar went off to place bets for most of the group, but I shook my head when he asked if I’d like to put money on Savaric.
The fight went well for Savaric. Although the other man did land a few punches, it was clear that Savaric was inflicting more damage than he took. Suddenly, Savaric landed an enormous blow to his opponent’s abdomen. The sound of his fist slamming into flesh caused everyone to wince. Wulfgar immediately turned pale and staggered back, unable to continue. Savaric was announced the winner of the match and his opponent helped back to a small bench along the back wall. As Morvar excitedly moved away to collect the winnings, Surm turned to me and asked if I had placed a bet. I said no. When he asked why, I explained that I worshiped a god of courage and bravery. Placing an armor spell on Savaric to cheat on a bare-knuckle match didn’t seem a particularly brave act.
I don’t know if my words pricked at Surm’s conscious or not. However, we both decided to go check on the other man. It was quite clear that Wulfgar had taken some internal injuries from the fight, but his condition seemed to have stabilized. I asked the man in our own tongue if he was Jossian He replied back in a Roslag dialect so difficult to understand that only i was able to comprehend him. Switching our conversation back to Tradespeak, Surm made introductions and offered him one of our healing potions as one Northron brother to another. Wulfgar noticed my holy symbol and asked if I was a priest of Bruni. I replied that I only was a worshiper. The man nodded approvingly. We invited Wulfgar to the Dusty Cartwright for drinks, but it was likely that he would be recovering from his injuries for several days.
Our group re-gathered and headed back to the inn. As we sat down to dine, Seela approached our table with another comely young woman in tow. It was quickly apparent that this was some sort of arranged date for Surm. I tried to excuse myself, not wanting to be party to the situation brewing. Surm grabbed my arm when I stood and frantically hissed at me not to leave. I sighed and sat back down. Summoning a server, I ordered a bottle of wine for the table. As cups were passed around the table, however, Surm suddenly made a half-hearted excuse and fled the table for his room. If my eyes could have shot daggers, the sorcerer would have found a pair of blades between his shoulder blades. I resigned myself to enjoying the wine at least. And, truly, it was fairly entertaining watch Morvar trying to sooth the indignation of one young woman, while not incurring the displeasure of the other. However, when my cup was empty I said my own goodbyes and went to bed.
16 Illumination, 508. The first thing we did today was get that damned hat removed from my head. Corth warned me that the spell would only allow her to remove the hat, not the curse. I didn’t care. I left it behind gladly, ignoring the friendly jibes from the others at the state of my hair underneath. Surm also asked about finding mystical items that might increase the owner’s abilities. Corth gave us directions to one of her colleagues at the university, Cuthmund Weldwyn. When we arrived at his offices, Weldwyn was welcoming and listened carefully to Surm’s request. For a daily fee of 15 gold pieces, he will research for objects that might meet that description. We asked him to send word to the Dusty Cartwright when he discovered something of note.
Rather than just spend all of our time waiting for Weldwyn’s response, we decided to look for small jobs to keep us occupied. While there were several posted bounties that looked interesting to Savaric, we chose instead to look into reports of a beast slaughtering local livestock. Heading out of Jenna’s gates, Surm again took over the lead of “introducing” us to the local farmer. As we were dressed in our “uniforms” due to our normal traveling clothes being laundered, Surm began calling out “Make way for Captain Rilka!” This seemed to impress the man, Fenric, and the other local farmers who had gathered around the fresh corpse of a half-eaten draft horse. As Savaric examined the scene, Fenric explained that for the past five nights, livestock had turned up looking like “this.” Savaric found a set of large tracks and lead our group deep into the surrounding forest. From the size and shape of the prints, he believed that the creature attacking Fenric’s livestock was a dire wolf. The tracks led us to a cleft in a small hill. Savaric moved carefully inside and discovered a huge wolf sleeping among scattered bones and debris. He was able to sneak up on the creature and slay it before it even woke. We returned to Fenric’s farm with the direwolf’s pelt and presented it to the amazed farmer. Surm told a very grand tale of the event and, when Fenric said he didn’t have much to pay us with, told the famer that just spreading the deeds of Captain Rilka was enough. How I kept a straight face I don’t know, but I accepted the man’s thanks and we headed back to town. That night, as tales of the direwolf were recounted in the Dusty Cartwright’s common room, Morvar found an appreciative young woman to keep him company. Surm, as usual, muttered darkly under his breath.
15 Illumination, 508. We entered the city of Jenna today. Choosing to stay in the marketplace, we secured lodgings at the Dusty Cartwright. It took us most of the day to sell our various weapons, gems, and other assorted treasures. Surm bargained fiercely with vendors while Savaric and I looked menacingly at anyone who looked like they might get too close. At the sun started to go down, we headed for Scribner’s Hill, Savaric carrying the rather large sack of coins we had accumulated. Merchants normally would have been shuttering their doors at this time of night, but today was market day and the streets were still full of townsfolk.
As we traveled, Surm inquired if anyone could direct us to a person who was able to remove curses. Before long, we were given directions to the shop of a Mistress Brunhild Corth. Mistress Corth, a somewhat frazzled-looking wizard, didn’t seem unduly taken back by our strange group. Upon hearing about the cursed hat on my head, she invited me to sit down in her workroom. She circled me a few times, examining it. She did have the ability to remove the curse, but I would have to return the next day to give her time to study. We agreed on a price and Mistress Corth also gave us directions to two of other merchants that sold magical items and weaponry, respectively. Although Surm and Morvar often make snide remarks about the limitations of wizards, there is something to be said for having access to so many different kinds of spells.
The first shop, owned by a man named Danu Berstrom, sold magical trinkets and potions. While we sold him one of the scrolls that the brothers could not read, we didn’t buy anything in return. At the next shop, this owned by a woman named Aethel Troos, we found much more to our liking. Although it greatly depleted our newly acquired coin, the group finally settled on purchasing several items: a magical composite longbow for Savaric, a mithral chain shirt for Morvar, a magical mithral chain shirt for Surm, and an enchanted falchion that glowed like a torch for myself. We stopped by Berstrom’s shop one more time to have him identify a few other bits of magic that we had found on our journey. Then, we all returned to the Dusty Cartright. I don’t think I have ever seen as money exchange hands as did today. When I let my mind think on how much has changed over the past year, I am somewhat amazed at it all.
14 Illumination, 508. We parted ways with Bayhild and her group and traveled another full day. As we made camp, Surm heard a strange growling and rustling from above. When he heard a noise like a great breath being drawn inwards, he yelled for everyone to take cover. I had just darted for the nearest tree when a huge acidic cloud filled the clearing behind me. A large scaled beast circled high above. Savaric began shooting arrows into it. When the creature swooped down to bite at him, Morvar and I were able to attack it with our blades, Morvar striking the killing blow. Savaric identified the dead beast as a forest drake. Hoping that the hide may be worth something in Jenna, Savaric skinned the drake and took its teeth and talons. I helped Saren gather the scattered horses and we moved our campsite a distance from the dead animal. If the rest of the trip goes by without incident, we should make Jenna by tomorrow morning.
13 Illumination, 508. We traveled for the entire day on our hired mounts. Saren, the stablemaster, accompanied us on our journey. The man seemed a bit wary of Savaric and I, but otherwise pleasant enough. As we came across a place to make camp for the evening, another group approached from the opposite direction. A well armored woman named Bayhild seemed to be the leader of the party. We all agreed to share the campsite. One of their group, a man named Kenrick, appeared to be a magic user of sorts. I approached him to see if he could be of any assistance with removing the curse from my hat. Kenrick didn’t have the spells to do so, but did give me directions to where I might find help in Jenna. Morvar, much to his brother’s eternal disapproval, became quite friendly with their bard and spent the night in her tent instead.
12 Illumination, 508. Ah, this damned hat! The night before I found, much to my dismay, that I couldn’t remove it from my head no matter how hard I tried. It weighed upon my mind as we entered Riverton to secure transportation to Jenna. Before I could decide to say anything to my companions, a bit of a commotion down a side alley caught our attention. We heard a male voice call out, “Stay down half-breed!” Savaric and Morvar immediately headed down the alleyway. Surm and I followed behind. We found a group of men surrounding a half-orc. A few of the men were already on the ground, but the odds were certainly not in the half-orc’s favor. Morvar, in what might have been an innocent tone in much different circumstances, questioned the men if they were asking for a half-breed. The sight of our well-armored group drawing close, with two “half-breeds” among them, caused the men grow nervous and attack. It was a fairly one-sided encounter, even though we took care not cause the men any real damage. At the end, the half-orc thanked us for our valor, then said something to Savaric and I in the orcish tongue. The priests of Bruni never taught me Urkhani. Before I had to confess ignorance of that language, Morvar replied in kind. The half-orc, who introduced himself as Marek, was impressed that the brother spoke a “civilized tongue.” We all agreed to head to a nearby tavern.
It all started out well enough. Marek was friendly and bought our small group a round of drinks. He referred to me as “m’lady” and his eyes held an appreciative look when he glanced my way. I must admit it was a new, yet somewhat thrilling, feeling. I am used to many reactions when human men see me for the first time, but attraction is not one of them. However, as Marek began to tell his story of how he came to be in Riverton, the mood in our group shifted. Marek was here to defile the tomb of the local hero of the paladins of Barthal. He believed it would impress the leader of his island clan. None of our group was interested in Marek’s offer to let us join him in his quest, although perhaps all for slightly different reasons. Marek seemed disappointed, but was truly puzzled when Surm asked for his word that he would not do this quest. Surm explained that it was not only a bad idea that could lead to Marek’s capture or death, but that it would have particularly bad implications for Savaric and I. It would be easy for the townsfolk to believe that all of the half-orcs had been working together. Marek asked Savaric and I for our thoughts, for we had both been relatively quiet during the exchange. I said that I agreed with Surm. We were our own clan, our own family, and we all looked out for each other. Marek was clearly not pleased, but gave his word before taking his leave of us and the tavern. Perhaps it was due to the swirl of conflicting emotions still inside me, but I found myself suddenly confessing to the fact that I couldn’t remove my hat. The others laughed a bit at my expense, but the brothers believe that my hat may be merely cursed. It’s not within their power, but hopefully I can find a wizard in Jenna that can break the spell holding it to my head. We left Riverton soon after.
9 Illumination – 11 Illumination, 508. When we woke, we found evidence that some presence had approached in the night as all of the doors now stood wide open. A quick search, however, uncovered no new creatures. I was more than ready to leave this strange place. Morvar and I worked out a way to use the workbench tables to prevent anyone from falling back down the hole while climbing up the rock slide. It was slow, tiring work, but over the next few days we managed to haul ourselves and our belongings back to where we left the mules. To our surprise, only one mule remained. The blood on the ground and evidence of a struggle left no doubt to its fate. We pressed on until reaching Lord Colm’s manor. He was delighted at our success and offered to let us stay the night once again. After a bit of celebratory wine, mostly on the part of Lord Colm, Surm managed to sell him a pair of the large slurk tusks we brought back from the underground chambers. The Lord also agrees to write us a letter of reference. This has been a successful endeavor in many aspects. We plan to head back to Riverton in the morning.
8 Illumination, 508. Today we finally emerged into the sun again. Although I can see well enough in dark places, I much prefer to be above ground. We continued along the passes, climbing higher and higher. Finally, we came to a halt when Savaric found evidence of gryphons. While we waited below, he climbed up higher to scout. He soon came upon a pair of the beasts tending a nest. The gryphons instantly took to the air to attack. Morvar coated arrows with the sleep poison, yet the effects proved not to be quick enough. I managed to strike one of the creatures a mighty blow and it fell into the deeper pass below. The remaining creature became enraged and focused its attacks at me. Soon, however, it met the same fate as its mate. It fell to me to make the climb to the nest and retrieve the gryphon egg within. We made our way back down the pass, choosing to descend into the underground chamber again rather than try to camp on the bare mountainside.
7 Illumination, 508. We had a brief discussion whether or not to continue forward, but the lure of the unknown proved undeniable. We went through the double doors in the corner of the room. Savaric suddenly noticed several small figures clinging to the pipes that ran overhead. One of the creatures had its tiny hand inches from Morvar’s purse. With a cry of alarm, Savaric attacked. It didn’t take us long to dispose of them. The next room we encountered was filled with lit braziers and some sort of Dwarven altar. Several other doors led from this room, one of which was hot to the touch, as if a fire lay directly behind it. Bypassing that particular door, we explored further. One room contained alcoves with the remains of the dead. Balconies overlooked down into cavern containing huge mushrooms that emitted a faint green glow. Another room contained a odd plant-like creature. It demonstrated some sort of intelligence, but we were unable to communicate with it. When we entered another room, probably a kitchen at one time. A cloak lying on a table suddenly levitated and old rusty knives began to rise from the floor and attack us. We made quick work of the ghost and moved on. We next entered a large room containing more of the pipes. More of the small creatures began to attack us, hiding behind the pipes and making it incredibly hard to find them. A female of their species also appeared, who seemed to be some sort of magic-worker as well. After a good battle, our foes eventually fell to our blades and spells. I found a cache of hidden items in this room, including a tin music box, a couple of scrolls, and a jaunty black hat with a fine yellow plume. I was particularly attracted to the hat as I could imagine myself striking quite the figure in it. None of my companions were interested in claiming the hat as a prize, so I promptly put it on.
We continued to search out the underground chambers, coming across other odd monsters such as a tendriled plant that shot spoors and a large mushroom creature. Finally, my companions and I were ready to find a way to leave this place. After a few other attempts at finding a way out came to naught (including Morvar narrowing avoiding plummeting to certain death in an old mining car), we decided there was no other way but back up the way we came. As it was nightfall, we chose to make camp before continuing on.
5 Illumination – 7 Illumination, 508. We left Lord Colm’s residence before first light in order to supply ourselves in Riverton. A local alchemist sold us a strong sleeping potion to assist us. He also offered to buy any griffon manes we were able to obtain. We then headed up into the mountain pass. I found it increasingly hard to breath the higher we went. I hope that my body adjusts to the mountain air quickly. We have so far encountered a pair of ogres, scaled narrow passes, and climbed down into a sunken room to fight a hideous monster. I fear that there is still more to come.
24 Illumination, 508. We arrived in Riverton today. Upon entering the city, we were told of the local shrine to Wygulf Darkbane, a long-dead and venerated Paladin of Barthol. Following directions from the guards, we passed through Riverton and out the other side. It was not long before we came across a sign indicating the way to Coln’s Lodge. Lord Coln agreed to meet with us. It was quite apparent from the animal skins and hides that he is a collector of trophies. He is still offering a significant reward for a griffon’s egg. Many adventurers have attempted to retrieve one, but none so far have succeeded. Surm managed to convince the Lord to put us up for the night. I am always amazed at his ability to charm others.
28 Growth – 3 Illumination, 508. We left for Riverton as soon as we could purchase a mule from the marketplace. The first night on the road, Savaric was attacked and bitten by a wolf. The creature was easily slain, but hopefully there would be no more ill effects for the half-orc.
27 Growth, 508. Late in the afternoon, the Waveraker docked in Jenna. After paying the appropriate fees to enter the city, we found a decent inn to stay the night. Savaric bought our group a fine wine to share over dinner. Although Morvar’s attempts at attracting a pretty elvish adventurer did not go as he planned, the evening was pleasant enough.
22 – 26 Growth, 508. I didn’t see much of Surm over the next few days as he kept mostly to his cabin. I tried to stay on deck as much as possible, but scattered storms forced me to retreat below at times. Savaric chose to remain above and face out the storm. As a result, he has been feeling poorly.
21 Growth, 508. The morning light found us standing before the Waveraker. We boarded and stored our gear as the ship headed out to sea. I had never been on the open water before, so I remained on deck, hoping to see a dolphin or another like sea-creature. Surm, however, didn’t seem as pleased by the constant moving of the ship beneath him and went to his cabin. Later that day, Savaric and Morvar noticed that the crew seemed to be talking quietly about me and Savaric. I would have worried that it was due to our orcish heritage, but one of their own was also a half-orc. Soon, that same half-orc sailor and another crew mate approached. They introduced themselves as Dask and Ewan. Savaric was invited into a bare-fist bout with Dask to take place that evening below decks. Savaric agreed. That night, as we entered the hold, Morvar places a side bet that our friend will win the match. It was quite impressive to see the huge men stripped to the waist and circling each other. Dask put up a fight, but it was not long before Savaric dropped him to the floor, unconscious . Morvar collected his winnings and we headed to bed.
15 Growth, 508. In the darkest part of the night, we returned to the keep. After several near misses with patrolling guards, we slid into the shadows at the back of the building. A shuttered window faintly emitted the sounds of raucous laughing and talk. Trying to find another way to enter, we climbed to the top of the roof.
14 Growth, 508. Savaric and I assisted the villagers in re-building the palisade this morning. I do not know that it will be particularly helpful if Margrathar and his men decide to attack Aeth again, but it gave us something to do. The villagers still seemed wary of the two of us. By midday, the king called a war council, summoning all the camp leaders to his longhouse. The twins went to speak on our group’s behalf. It was decided that we would target the witch, hopefully before she could re-summon her demon. The rest of the Aething warriors would set up ambush points along the path and prepare to defend the village. We left Aeth and made our way back to Magrathar’s keep. Once night falls, we move.
13 Growth, 508. The slaves have been rescued, the mercenaries scattered, and the demon slain. While we had several near scrapes, in the end, we were victorious. It was good to see the twins recognized by their king, although Surm seemed much more pleased than his brother. Although tonight is for celebration, tomorrow will bring the promise of new battles. The twins’ mother still resides in Magrathar’s keep. We killed the demon, but not the witch who summoned it. And Magrathar will seek vengeance against the village of Aeth. I sharpen my blade and await the new day.